Theresa May is effectively running a minority Government.
On Monday, her partners in the DUP seemed to abandon their confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives, abstaining on votes on the Finance Bill and supporting a Labour-proposed amendment. The Government won, but barely. Five votes separated the Government from defeat.
This ‘shot across the bows’ was intended to signal the DUP dissatisfaction with the planned Brexit deal, which has significant consequences for Northern Ireland’s future relationship with the rest of the UK.
Although the DUP claimed their confidence and supply arrangement remains in place, as their votes had not killed off a specific budget measure, the future remains murky. The government did not comment on whether their arrangement with the DUP was still in place following the Finance Bill vote, but the reality is stark. Theresa May does not have a majority, and now she must contend with a Parliamentary faction looking to make their discontent known, with a range of domestic policy issues they can lash out at. From universal credit to NHS funding, the DUP are now ten more opposition votes the Conservatives need to account for when implementing an agenda outside of Brexit.
A bruised Theresa May began the 2017 Parliament in the expectation that the DUP support would make legislating feasible. Their opposition to the Brexit deal could well spell the end of her premiership, or even government, if it fails by fewer than ten votes.
The Government paid a heavy price for DUP support, to the tune of £1 billion in spending for Northern Ireland across two years. As things stand now, that investment is not paying off.