Belfast Telegraph

It's win-win if Arlene Foster strikes right balance

Editor's Viewpoint

With just 24 hours to go to D-day for a deal to be signed between the DUP and the Tories to allow Theresa May to form a government both sides are playing coy over what is being discussed.

Neither party leader is renowned for transparency in any negotiations and Arlene Foster's comments that Brexit, national security and doing the right thing for Northern Ireland's economy are on the table can really mean anything.

She is correct of course to adopt that approach, for she knows that expectations are high back at home that she can wrest significant concessions from the Prime Minister given her once-in-a-lifetime position of leverage.

Those expectations are not simply pie in the sky dreaming but based on the DUP's thinking the last time a hung parliament seemed probable. As outlined on the page opposite the party is likely to be demanding a large financial package enabling any future Executive to make significant improvements in infrastructure and in aiding the stricken health service.

Other issues are likely to include a lowering of corporation tax without severely reducing the block grant and trade arrangements which could mitigate the effects of Brexit on trade and the movement of people and services between the province and the Republic of Ireland.

As can be seen from our analysis the DUP document is a wide-ranging wish list and it will be interesting to see how much Mrs Foster can wrest from the Prime Minister.

She will need to be careful not to underplay or overplay her hand and in the background there are warnings that a deal with the Tories may not be a win-win situation.

Former Prime Minister John Major is concerned that the peace process could be endangered if the Tories are seen to be too close to the DUP to the detriment of other parties here and Lord Trimble warns that the DUP could find themselves fielding flak for unpopular policies pushed through by a new government.

Lord Ashdown's intervention that the government of the UK should never put the levers of power in the hands of Ulster politicians does him no credit as it has no precedent or basis in fact.

If the DUP do gain a popular deal from the Tories it would strengthen the party's hand in the negotiations to restore devolution. It would make it very difficult for any other party to turn down a windfall.

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