- UK Prime Minister May has won a vote of confidence for its legislative plans for the next two years laid out last week in the Queen’s Speech.
- Cabinet has been backed by the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland as per their government deal with May.
- Win of confidence vote has become possible only after the Cabinet made a concession: agreeing to pay for women from Northern Ireland to travel to England for abortions.
- Several Labor amendments on the economy and Brexit have been defeated with help from the DUP.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative minority government backed by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland has achieved a narrow win in the House of Commons of the British Parliament with a confidence vote on its legislative plans.
Earlier this week, May reached an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland in which its 10 MPs agreed to backs May’s minority Cabinet, giving May an effective working majority of 13.
The Conservative – DUP deal has been outlined in a three page document. Under it, the DUP will support the government in key votes, such as on the Queen’s Speech and Budgets, which would threaten the government’s survival if they were lost, and will also back Theresa May on Brexit and security matters.
As part of the deal, Northern Ireland is going to receive GBP 1.5 billion in government funding, of which 1 billion is extra money, for infrastructure, health and education.
In the June snap elections, May and the Tories lost their parliamentary majority – even though they had been hoping to increase it – and had to start talks with the DUP to secure even a tiny majority in the British Parliament.
The main condition for the Irish Unionists’ support had been reported to be a promise that there will be no special semi-EU status for Northern Ireland after Brexit, i.e. after the UK quits the EU, contrary to the demands of Irish nationalists Sinn Fein.
In the Parliament elected in 2015, Prime Minister May and the Conservative Party had a narrow majority of 4 seats, i.e. a total of 330 MPs.
After the snap polls, the Tories have ended up with a total of 318 MPs, losing 12 seats, and 8 seats short of an absolute majority in the hung parliament.
The talks for Brexit between the EU and the UK finally began in June, after on March 29, 2017, May formally triggered Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which deals with exit from the European Union, initiating a two-year process of negotiations.
The guidelines for the Brexit talks adopted by the EU list three main priorities: securing the rights of EU nationals in the UK; collecting Britain’s financial dues; and avoiding a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, should be avoided.
Abortion Concession for Narrow Win
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority Cabinet secured lawmakers’ backing for its legislative plans by a narrow margin on Thursday, but only after making a sudden concession on abortion funding to stave off defeat, AP reported.
The House of Commons voted by 323 to 309 to approve last week’s Queen’s Speech, which laid out the government’s agenda for the next two years.
The legislative package did not include some of the pledges made by the Conservatives before Britain’s June 8 election.
If the vote had been lost, that would have likely been a fatal blow to Theresa May’s Cabinet.
In order to secure the confidence vote of the MPs, government ministers were forced into a major concession hours before the vote: agreeing to pay for women from Northern Ireland to travel to England for abortions.
Abortion is banned in Northern Ireland unless a woman’s life or mental health is in danger, and hundreds of women a year travel to other parts of the UK to terminate pregnancies. They must pay for the abortions, as well as for travel costs.
Labour Party lawmaker Stella Creasy obtained a vote on a motion calling for women who travel from Northern Ireland to get government funding.
Several Conservative legislators said they would support the amendment because it corrected a longstanding injustice, prompting the government’s scramble to change its policy.
In a letter to lawmakers, Equalities Minister Justine Greening said women from Northern Ireland had previously been asked to pay, but “from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen.”
Creasy said the government’s about-face was “very encouraging” and agreed to withdraw her amendment without a vote.
“There is a recognition that there has been an injustice for too long,” she said.
There were several attempts by the Labor opposition to defeat the weakened government over its plans for the economy and for Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Other Labour proposals called on the government to reverse cuts to public spending, lift a pay cap on civil servants and the emergency services and soften the Brexit terms of to keep full access to the bloc’s single market.
The government defeated all the proposed changes with support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists, who are reported to have dismayed some Conservatives on account of their socially conservative policies on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
The DUP’s support for the new May Cabinet has hindered the restoration of a power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast, as the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein accused the British government of abandoning its position of neutrality toward Northern Ireland’s rival political forces.