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DUP plays down '£2 billion price tag' on deal to keep May's Tory government afloat as 'wild speculation'

The DUP has played down reports it is asking for £2bn in extra investment for Northern Ireland in return for its proposed deal with the Conservative government.

The BBC reported earlier on Wednesday that the party asked for a £1bn investment in Northern Ireland's health services and a similar amount for infrastructure projects.

However speaking later that evening DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the figures were "wild speculation".

He said: "I think those figures are wild speculation and wide of the mark.

"We're talking to the Treasury and to the government about, yes, investing in our infrastructure in Northern Ireland, snd we are looking at health and education as well these are priorities for us in terms of government spending and we want some help from the Treasury on that. because we've lagged behind the rest of the UK, not least due to 30 years of violence," he told BBC Newsline.

The claims come in the wake of the Queen's Speech which saw Theresa May water down her party's election manifesto and focus on Brexit talks with the EU.

  • Queen's Speech sees May shred Tory manifesto

  • DUP tells May to 'cut deal now or run cap in hand for five years' 

  • After the Queen's Speech, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was confident the party can reach a deal with the Prime Minister to support a minority Tory Government.

    He said that “discussions are continuing”.

    “We're making progress and we've identified the key issues that will form part of the confident and supply arrangement that we want to put in place for a five-year Parliament,” he told Sky News on Wednesday afternoon.

    “I'm not going to take anything for granted. A seasoned negotiator never reveals his or her hand in public but I'm confident we can get an agreement. We want to reach an agreement.”

    He said party colleagues had “listened very carefully to what the government have said in the Queen's Speech” and “we like a lot of what they've said.

    “Clearly on Brexit, on counter-terrorism these are issues on which we have common ground with the government. We have concerns about some of the policies that they talked about during the General Election but I think we're seeing those fade into the background.”

    He echoed earlier claims that the NIO had intervened to warn of the dangers that a DUP deal would pose for the ongoing negotiations to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

    “We're not asking the Conservative Party to take sides in the devolution debate in Northern Ireland,” the Lagan Valley MP said.

    “We're not asking the Conservative Party to be anything other than what they need to be and that is impartial and encouraging movement towards the restoration of devolution.”

    Meanwhile Sinn Fein says Ms May is prioritising what it calls a “self-serving negotiation with the DUP over the Stormont talks”.

    Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion said: "Theresa May set out her priorities in the Queen’s speech today and, unsurprisingly, protecting the North from Brexit and austerity cuts didn't feature.

    "Her government committed to legislation to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market and imposing Brexit on the people of the North. The DUP supports this position and it will have a devastating impact on our economy, rights and public services.

    The new Foyle MP said the Tory government had “placed self-interest above their obligations to the agreements and the institutions” in Northern Ireland.

    Speaking earlier, First Secretary of State Damian Green had played down expectations of quickly finalising an agreement.

    Asked if an agreement was close, Mr Green replied: “There is still the possibility – there’s every possibility – of a DUP deal.”

    Mr Green, the Prime Minister’s effective deputy, insisted the talks went “much wider” than just the Northern Ireland party’s demands for extra spending and tax breaks.

    Both sides saw the value of a “confidence and supply” arrangement, with the DUP backing the Government on key votes while preventing it being brought down by motions of no confidence.

    But, Mr Green added: “All talks of this kind take a long time - and they are still continuing.”

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