This blogpost was written on Tues Oct 30th, 2018
Brexit negotiations have been on hold for the past week or so pending yesterday’s UK Budget. Both EU and UK negotiators waited nervously to see if the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, could deliver a budget that could win acceptance in the House of Commons. As I write, on Tuesday morning, it looks like he did.
The cause for concern on the part of the negotiators were recent statements from both hard-line Brexiteers in the Conservative Party and from the Ulster Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that they would vote down the budget in a show of force over their Brexit concerns. However, after Hammond earmarked £350 million for Belfast and another £320 million for the Northern Ireland Executive, it is now unlikely that the DUP will vote down the budget.
But the government is not yet out of the woods as far as the DUP is concerned. Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP, said the party was not yet planning to oppose the budget, explaining, “To date we haven’t seen the outcome of the withdrawal agreement, so it would be reckless of us to oppose the budget on the basis of something we haven’t seen.” Wilson added, “However, the government will need support when it comes to the finance bill… So, they shouldn’t take it for granted that just because they get the budget passed that they can do whatever they like with Northern Ireland.”
Hammond also loosened spending in what the Financial Times described as “an old-fashioned giveaway Budget”. As the FT further noted Hammond’s budget was “as much about politics as economics.”