One of the key points of the DUP-Tory agreement arranged in 2017 was that the DUP would support the Tories in key votes, including those on Brexit.

However, to my memory, they have not supported the Tories in any legislative Brexit votes, and are currently and openly the main block to passing the Withdrawal Agreement.

No news media that I've seen has ever remarked on the fact that the DUP is apparently completely ignoring the agreement.

Am I misunderstanding something about it?

And, if not, how come the Tories haven't done anything about it? Is it just that they really can't do anything about it? In any case, I'd expect to hear way more noise on this subject.

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    I'm not sure I agree with your claim about the media not covering this. Sky News did a piece last year about what was agreed as the agreement started to unravel then.
    – Joe C
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 21:05
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    confidence and supply agreements are obviously not blank cheques. That's even without considering whether the whole 'go against the main point of the democratic unionist party's existance' wasn't explicitly excluded
    – user19831
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 22:40
  • "the main block" seems to be a bit of an exaggeration. Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 23:23
  • @JoeC To be fair, I did say "that I've seen", so I can confirm the claim's trueness :) Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 0:25
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    They may well have done. But as the agreement did not constitute a legally binding contract, it is difficult to see what the government could do about it. The arrangement has simply broken down. The DUP would probably argue they had been conned by Boris Johnson - and they may well be right.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


Technically yes, but the agreement has been in question since November last year, when the DUP abstained on a Finance Bill, to indicate their displeasure with (then) May's Brexit approach.

The DUP has abstained from supporting the Government in a Finance Bill vote, calling into question its confidence and supply agreement with the Conservative government.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight programme on Monday night about his party's reasons for doing so, DUP MP Sammy Wilson hit out at Theresa May's Government for failing to honour its side of the agreement.

"The Government has seriously broken an agreement it made with us when it came to the Brexit legislation Northern Ireland would not be treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom," said Mr Wilson, noting his view was evidenced by the resignation of former Cabinet Ministers Esther McVey and Dominic Raab.

"Since the Government has not honoured its side of the bargain we tonight tried to spell out some of the consequences of that being broken."

As a reminder, the agreement included an obligation for the DUP to support Finance Bills, among other things:

The confidence and supply agreement reached between the DUP and the Conservatives in June 2017 states: "The DUP agrees to support the government on all motions of confidence; and on the Queen’s Speech; the Budget; finance bills; money bills, supply and appropriation legislation and Estimates."

Johnson formally nixed his majority in September this year by expelling the 21 Tories which supported the Benn Act (that eventually forced Johnson to send an extension request to the EU). So it's a bit unclear what if any relevance the supply agreement with DUP had after that, since Johnson has been seeking to force an election since then, which insofar he was no able to get because of the hurdle presented by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

And as you observed, the DUP also opposed the deal that Johnson negotiated with the EU:

Mr Dodds accused Mr Johnson and other government ministers of not knowing "what on earth" they had negotiated as part of the revised withdrawal agreement with the EU.

He said the plan, which would see NI businesses having to fill in exit declaration forms on goods going to GB, new checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea and extra administration, as "the worst of all worlds".

As another reminder, the 2nd reading of Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement Bill did pass despite DUP's opposition. It was only the accelerate schedule that sank because some the Labour defectors didn't support the schedule, and neither did some of the expelled Tories (who also voted for the 2nd reading).

  • Okay - so indeed it looks like all that's happening is this is not mentioned as much in the press as I would have expected (and whether that's for some particular reason, or just because my expectation is unrealistic, doesn't really matter) Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 0:31

The confidence and supply agreement was basically worthless to begin with. Just a fig leaf to cover up the fact that the Tories bribed the DUP with at least £1.5 billion, arguably a lot more.

Since bribery is frowned upon they created the agreement to give an official explanation as to why the DUP was supporting the Tories. As is often the case with bribes when things got difficult the DUP was inclined to make further demands.

As yourself this: What is the penalty for breaking the confidence and supply agreement? The answer is nothing. Nothing at all would happen to the DUP, who at the very least stood to gain politically from either blocking policies harmful to their constituents or securing more bribe money for them.

  • Eh? Confidence and supply (and indeed coalitions) always is based on agreeing some quid pro quo in terms of government or legeslative policy - in this case government investment in Northern Ireland. "What is the penalty for breaking the confidence and supply agreement?"
    – user19831
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 19:32
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    The DUP was not bribed. Are you actually saying a crime was committed? The agreement - like any coaltion or C&S agreement - included changes in government policy that suit the minority partners political preferences. In this case they agreed on inreases in spending on public services in NI. That is all. Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 22:54
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    @DukeBouvier no crime, just a bribe in the common sense of the world. It was widely described as such by commentators and press at the time.
    – user
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 14:54
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    As someone from a country where coalition governments are the norm, I'd say the MPs are just accountable to the voters. If voters don't think they do a good job they can vote for a different party in the next election. Of course, in the FPTP system that may not have an actual impact. That said, I wouldn't use the words fig leaf and bribery, those seem needlessly charged. If you think it's normal that the party in government will do things that benefit their voters (e.g. Labour doing things for laborers) then this sharing of the benefits of being in power isn't that weird.
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 15:02

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