Five things we know about the DUP’s economic policies
Hadn’t heard of the DUP before Friday? You’re not alone
If you’re not from Northern Ireland (or don’t have a weird interest in regional UK political parties) you might not have heard of the DUP before they were catapulted into the limelight on Friday morning.
You’re not alone. When the results were announced, the DUP website went down and DUP was one of the highest-searched terms on Google as people around the UK did a collective “sorry, who?”
Quick recap: The UK general election didn’t go exactly as Prime Minister Theresa May had planned so she had to turn to the DUP to make sure she had enough support in Parliament to govern. The two groups are currently in talks, although no one is actually sure what that means, or how much the DUP will be able to influence Theresa May’s decisions.
The DUP are a Northern Irish party, their full name is the Democratic Unionist Party, and their main thing is for Northern Ireland to stay part of the UK – that’s what the ‘unionist’ bit means.
Since Friday's election result there’s been a lot of talk about the DUP’s social policies – they’re known for being ‘socially conservative’, and want the way people live their lives to be defined by their religious beliefs. They’re anti-abortion and consistently voted against equal marriage. But what about their economic policies? Here’s five things we know:
They’re pro-Brexit, but against a hard-Brexit
The DUP were pro-Brexit, but Northern Ireland has the UK’s only land border with another EU country (the border with the Republic of Ireland, which isn’t part of the UK, but is an EU member). Allowing goods and people to travel across that border freely is really important for businesses and communities in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, that freedom (known as freedom of movement) is something that has been brought into question by the prospect of a ‘hard Brexit’. The DUP are likely to fight against that happening.
They could challenge the Conservative's welfare policies
The DUP also differs from the Conservatives on some of its social spending policies. Its 2017 manifesto set out its opposition to the Conservative plan to end a ‘Triple-Lock’ on pensions (basically a very jargony way of saying the Conservatives wanted to make sure there was no further cuts to pensions spending) – ending the ‘lock’ was a key part of the Tory manifesto.
The DUP also wants to raise the minimum wage. The party says economic growth should be felt by everyone in society.
They want to spend more money on defence
The DUP is very pro-defence spending, and has said that it doesn’t believe the UK defence arrangements are enough to protect itself in the 21st Century. It wants the UK to keep up its nuclear weapons and supports NATO, an international defence organization made up of different countries around the world, but says it thinks other NATO nations are failing to reach the minimum spending target required for membership.
They're not so sure about this whole climate change thing
There was nothing in this DUP manifesto about the environment, but they’ve previously appointed someone who openly said climate change didn’t exist as Northern Ireland environment minister.
The party’s leader, Arlene Phillips, faced a backlash back in 2016 when a scheme to encourage people to move to renewable energy sources failed, costing Northern Irish taxpayers £490m.
Some people are pretty worried about their views
OK, not strictly economic, but the DUP’s social policies (about things like access to abortion and gay rights) will become a pretty fundamental part of their relationship with mainstream UK politicians. It’s been open in its support for an abortion ban in Northern Ireland – unlike in the UK, it is currently a criminal offence to have an abortion in Northern Ireland. The DUP has also consistently voted against gay marriage.
It's hard to tell so far how much influence the DUP will have on the UK government or even how long the agreement will last before the government calls another general election. There's one thing we do know though, like pretty much all politics at the moment: shit got weird.