Prime Minister Theresa May attracts criticism with DUP deal and post-Brexit offer to EU nationals

The Prime Minister Meets DUP Leader At Downing Street
Theresa May and Arlene Foster sealed their "confidence and supply" deal (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday secured the support of the DUP, signing a £1bn deal with the Northern Irish party to prop up her minority government.

The agreement includes a commitment to drop Tory manifesto plans to scrap the triple-lock on pensions and introduce means-testing for the winter fuel allowance for pensioners.

The DUP has also secured £1bn in extra funding for Northern Ireland over the next two years, and has been given more flexibility in how the £500m already pledged to the province can be spent.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the party was acting "to deliver a stable government in the UK's national interest".

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However, the agreement received a mixed response – as did May's offer to EU citizens currently living in the UK, revealed late yesterday afternoon.

Former Treasury official Nick Macpherson believes the £1bn bill could escalate. "£1bn for Ulster is just a downpayment. DUP will be back for more...again and again. They have previous in such matters," he said.

In a reminder of the fraught state of Northern Irish politics, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said:

"[It] provides a blank cheque for a Tory Brexit which threatens the Good Friday Agreement."

Later in the day the PM told the House of Commons about her plans for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, saying she is seeking "to give reassurances to EU citizens who have made their homes and lives in our country".

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, was unimpressed. He tweeted: "EU goal on citizens' rights: same level of protection as in EU law. More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today's UK position."

Some business groups welcomed the statement, but other City experts said the plans were unnecessarily complex and opaque.

"A simplified approach would have been welcomed by all parties – instead we seem to have a big complicated offer," said a partner at KPMG.

"Many will conclude the policy paper requires careful reading even by immigration lawyers. It’s also easy to see businesses being bombarded with concerns from confused workers."

Immigration lawyers at Kingsley Napley said EU nationals would face more costly bureaucracy and uncertainty.

"Since the referendum, over 100,000 EU nationals and their family members have applied for, and obtained, permanent residence status. Making them re-apply is a waste, not only of their time and money, but also of public funds and of Home Office resources," said partner Nick Rollason.

The Federation of Small Businesses urged the government to make March 2019 the cut-off date for EU nationals to be granted "settled status".

"Until there is clarity, small businesses and their EU employees will continue to face considerable worry and anxiety over their ability to stay and work in the UK," FSB boss Mike Cherry said.

"This simply increases the chances of small businesses losing valuable staff who are turned off by continued uncertainty over their rights."

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