Belfast Telegraph

DUP deal with Conservatives only for big issues and we don't have to agree with them on social matters, says Defence Secretary Michael Fallon

Senior Conservative says his party does not have to agree with DUP on matters such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

By Jonathan Bell

A senior Conservative minister has said the party's deal with the DUP, in order to allow his party to run a minority government, will only come into play for "big issues" like the economy, security and Brexit.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon was speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning.

He confirmed the deal with Arlene Foster's party would not be a formal coalition, but on what is known as a "supply and confidence" arrangement.

He stressed that because they would be working together it did not mean, nor require his party, to agree with the Northern Ireland party's social views.

He said: "The DUP will support us on the big things like supporting us on the Queen's speech, making sure the budget and finance goes through, they support us on defence, on the big issues."

Former Chancellor George Osborne has said the DUP will now be able to go through each Conservative bill "line by line" in order to take - or reject - what it wants from the deal.

Sir Michael rejected this: "We have to deal with the situation in the House of Commons, it's a minority government but we will be working extremely closely with the  DUP. We have already started working on outline proposals so that we can form a government with their support."

Asked on the confusion on Saturday as to if the two sides had come to an agreement. Number 10 said a deal had been agreed on Saturday evening. However, the DUP later said talks would continue. Prime Minister Theresa May's top advisers are in Belfast for talks and Arlene Foster has said discussions will continue on Tuesday.

The defence secretary added: "It would be very, very surprising if something as important and complex as this was stitched together in a single day of talks in Belfast. What we do have now is outline proposals of what would underpin that working agreement."

He said the public will see the outline proposal between the two once discussions have concluded. Later Conservative MP Dominic Raab said the deal would be published.

Asked on the DUP's views, Sir Michael said: "Just because they are going to support us, it does not mean we now hold their views, because we don't.

"We are not in government with the DUP and we are not in coalition. We do not agree and we do not have to agree with these social issues and I certainly don't."

On the British government's neutrality in the Northern Ireland peace process,  He added: "We already had a friendship with the DUP which goes back many years. We have more in common with them than we do the other parties.

"The DUP themselves are wanting to return an Executive they have every interest in getting an agreement with the other Northern Ireland parties and we will continue to work on that to bring stability to Northern Ireland."

The senior Conservative was also asked on the DUP's links with loyalist paramilitaries who backed it in the run up to the election. Although Arlene Foster said her party fundamentally rejected the endorsement of anyone involved in paramilitarism in response to the Loyalist Communities Council backing of the party.

 

"The DUP has been part of the parliamentary process, and the democratic process in Northern Ireland for many years. They support the formation of an Executive and they want to see it back," he added.

"They are committed to stability and peace in Northern Ireland, they have been part of that for many years and they want that to continue."

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