On June 7th, the 2017 general election yielded a series of unexpected results shifting the political spotlight from Theresa May to her new possible saviors- the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The small Northern Irish party gained ten seats in the House of Commons Thursday night. A record number of seats acquired in the party’s 45-year history. However, along with this victory came the dissection of the party itself; from the media, the opposition, and others who had their eyes on the British election. The party is known for having what some suggest is a “controversial record.” The retain strong conservative views on social and religious issues, in religiously fractured Northern Ireland.
It is simple see that they are not the preferred or ideal option, but where else could Theresa May turn after her failed gamble? The left, as well as certain individuals within the conservative party, have painted the DUP as deplorable (sound familiar?). Many would rather the conservatives not form a coalition with the DUP, which would work in Corbyn’s favor- giving Labour a chance to form a government. At the end of the day, we must look for the silver lining in this because the coalition is inevitable.
1) A Conservative-led government in Parliament: The coalition with the DUP would grant Prime Minister May and the Conservatives enough seats to push them past the post toward a majority in parliament, a mark May nearly acquired in the general election. It prevents a minority government in the Commons, as well as a chance for Labour to form a government; keeping Corbyn out of Number 10. It also gives May a position more closely resembling the mandate she sought with the snap election in the first place. The partnership would strengthen her hand in entering EU negotiations and allow for a better Brexit than otherwise possible.
2) Devolved powers: Being that Northern Ireland has a devolved government it comes as no surprise that they would like to see the retention of the devolved governments and avoid ‘direct rule’ from Westminster. The DUP aims to see the preservation of certain policies that are specific to Northern Ireland, that they would rather not see reversed by the U.K. Government. As Wales and Scotland operate under similar governmental systems, they would also benefit from the presence and the power of the DUP.
3) Soft Brexit: For those waiting with baited breath, fearing Theresa May will come back from Europe empty handed and without a Brexit deal or a hard Brexit, that concern can be quelled. While the DUP were “Exiters,” they stood by David Cameron’s attempt to renegotiate within E.U. in 2016, and have since called for a soft Brexit. They support the open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, custom and comprehensive trade with the E.U., and the protection of rights for British and E.U. citizens respectively. We can be well assured that they will keep checks and balances on May (or whoever happens to be in 10 Downing Street).
4) Creating a global economy: In the days after the U.K. leaves the E.U., they will need to start looking for global partners to trade with and bring businesses back to the UK. The DUP is a step ahead, they’ve advocated lowering corporate tax to 12.5%, the formation of new Trade Advisory Board, cutting the VAT rate for tourism business, deregulating Freeports in economically underdeveloped areas of the UK, as well as supporting a Trade Accelerator Plan; aimed at enhancing initiatives to help support both new and existing exporters to explore new markets. The DUP has prosperity on their mind and the financial direction that is required to make a success of Brexit.
5) Shrinking the state: In their manifesto, the DUP aims the cut the size of the state by reducing the number of government departments from 12 to 9, reducing the number of special advisers, as well as the number of Councils from 26 to 11. They also wanted to introduce a Civil Service Voluntary Exit Scheme yielding annual savings of approximately £100 million. What is most important, as mentioned in the manifesto, is they seek to live within their means, which will be very vital to the U.K. to learn while regaining their momentum. They would rather the funds saved to be spent more effectively and efficiently on schools, hospitals, and police. They’re harping on the formula that will guarantee British prosperity: private enterprise, social enterprise, and philanthropy.
Coalitions haven’t always worked well in Britain, but they’ve gotten the job done. Some speculate a clashing of personalities between the two parties, but if the DUP stands by the principals they’ve laid out here, it will keep Corbyn away and push them toward a brighter Britain. Brexit will require many sacrifices and compromises, and this is just the first step.