DUP denies it discussed financial incentives as it holds Brexit talks with government

PUBLISHED: 17:37 15 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:37 15 March 2019

DUP delegation including Emma Little Pengelly and deputy leader  Nigel Dodds arriving at the Cabinet Office. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

DUP delegation including Emma Little Pengelly and deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at the Cabinet Office. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

The DUP has branded Brexit talks with the government as “constructive” as Theresa May tries to win their support ahead of the next meaningful vote.

Following the top level discussions, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “We have had a long series of discussions with a series of cabinet ministers today.

“We have had a constructive dialogue. Those discussions will continue over the coming period of time.”

Asked if extra cash for Northern Ireland had been discussed with chancellor Philip Hammond, Dodds said: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer is obviously a key member of the government, but he is also responsible for HMRC and the whole issue of their involvement in customs and other regulatory issues is a key concern for us.”

Other ministers involved in the talks included David Lidington, Michael Gove and Julian Smith, he said.

Dodds said: “We are not discussing cash in these discussions.”

When the DUP agreed to prop up May’s Government in a confidence and supply agreement in 2017, the party secured an extra £1 billion in funding for Northern Ireland.

Dodds said the government was now “very focused” on addressing the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop.

He said: “From day one, our focus has been on the red line of how Northern Ireland is treated separately from the rest of the UK.

“That is the issue that has been the priority concern for us.”

There are some signs that members of the European Research Group could also now support Theresa May’s deal after MPs backed a bid to push back Brexit beyond the scheduled date of March 29.

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey suggested Brexiteers could back May’s deal next week in order to make sure the UK leaves the EU.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast: “The element now is that people will have to take a bad deal rather than no deal.”

She added: “They’ll know it’s a rubbish a deal. They didn’t believe and neither would I have believed - having got warm words from people in authority ‘we will do this’, and remember the 100-plus times ‘we will be out on March 29’ - absolutely not.

“Remember those words ‘we will not be part of the customs union, the single market’, all of those red lines.

“Would you have believed they would have been broken, not adhered to and then run the clock down and not go back with a negotiating hand to change it?”

She added that people would have to “think a different way next week”.

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