No to hard Brexit, yes to Heathrow: Here's what the DUP want

 
Catherine Neilan
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Arlene Foster, DUP leader, says she doesnt want a hard Brexit - but does want Heathrow expansion (Source: Getty)

Prime minister Theresa May is heading to Buckingham Palace to seek permission from the Queen to form a new government.

Having failed to gain an outright majority herself, May is reported to have the backing of the Democratic Unionist Party, which won 10 seats last night. It is thought the DUP has given her its support and a "confidence and supply agreement" is in the offing.

Founded by Ian Paisley and now led by Arlene Foster, it is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fifth-largest party in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

But what exactly do the would-be kingmakers stand for?

Brexit

The DUP has "always" been a Eurosceptic party, and says it would uphold the vote last year, without putting any elements to a public vote. However it would be wrong to see this as a party gunning for a hard Brexit, which its leader Arlene Foster has spoken against.

"While the United Kingdom has decided that it no longer wants to be part of the EU political project, we still desire a positive relationship, mutual access to our markets to pursue common interests," the DUP says in its manifesto.

The DUP wants a "seamless, frictionless border and maintenance of the common travel area", particularly with the Republic of Ireland.

We want to get on with the work to make it a success; to write our own laws; to deliver on the vision of a global UK with new free trade deals; to control immigration; to deliver policies for farming and fishing shaped to our needs; to lift the burden of unnecessary regulation. Leaving the European Union is not an event. The day after we leave we will have the same laws as we had before but what we will have is the democratic freedom to take our decisions of what we do then. Such freedom was worth voting for and worth using for the benefit of us all.

Beyond Brexit, there are five main points its manifesto focuses on:

Health

There's no real detail on health, but as the first of its five point plan, the DUP pledges to "prioritise spending on our health service". In a separate document published in 2016, the party details how it has increased health spending by 12 per cent and says it would continue to raise spending to keep "the NHS in Northern Ireland on a sustainable footing for the future".

In its manifesto, it says: "The DUP will fight hard at Westminster for a budget settlement that allows for real terms increases in health and education spending over the next parliamentary term and will prioritise these areas in future Northern Ireland budgets."

Jobs and incomes

The party says it wants to "create more jobs and increase incomes". It pledged to create 50,000 new jobs by 2021 and wants to reduce Northern Ireland’s corporation tax rate to "at least" 12.5 per cent.

Protect family budgets

The DUP will "resist any assault on important universal benefits", it says. Some of its measures include freezing, then cutting, the TV licence fee and reforming the BBC.

The party also supports increases in the national living wage, wants to increase the personal tax allowance and supports the pensions triple lock.

Raise standards in education for everyone

The party wants to give "every child" the opportunity to succeed, having already launched a "no child left behind" strategy.

Invest in infrastructure

The DUP is in favour of a Heathrow expansion "as the UK’s aviation hub with increased air connectivity to Northern Ireland".

It also wants to roll out high speed internet across Northern Ireland and press mobile phone providers to improve 4G provision and have the region "at the forefront of future 5G investments".

The DUP adds:

Investment in infrastructure is crucial for economic competitiveness as well as providing a boost for the local construction industry. Given Northern Ireland’s geographical location, improved digital and transport connectivity remain key to building a world class economy.

A bit about the DUP

The DUP is the largest party in Northern Ireland, led by Arlene Foster in Belfast and Sir Jeffery Donaldson in Westminster.

Arlene Foster has said she wants to reach an honourable and not one-sided deal to make sure Northern Ireland gets the best Brexit deal.

The party backs a ‘soft’ Brexit. “No one wants to see a ‘hard’ Brexit, what we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union” Arlene Foster has previously said.

The DUP is a pro-union party and has a strong affiliation with the Protestant religion.

It is characterised by its backing of Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK.

More contentiously, It strongly opposes same sex marriage, supports Trident and is as a supporter of Brexit, was considered a potential ally in any Conservative coalition.

The DUP’s manifesto includes the broad themes of “Restoring Devolution”, “Increasing Family Homes” and “Improving Public Services” for Northern Ireland.

Additional reporting by Caroline Blennerhassett

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