Theresa May is expected to put her Brexit divorce deal to the vote for the third time despite MPs overwhelmingly striking the agreement down on two occasions. Claims emerged at the weekend suggesting the Prime Minister had offered key partners in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) extra cash to get their support in the Commons next week. But when confronted about the suggestion, Chancellor Philip Hammond remained tight-lipped as Andrew Marr repeatedly asked him for clarifications three times.
The BBC presenter said: “This week you have been sitting with the DUP. If the deal is to go through, you clearly need the DUP to vote for it. What have they been asking for and what have they offered?”
Mr Hammond insisted the British Government has sought to provide their DUP partners with reassurances Northern Ireland would not be subjected to a different regulatory regime should they back Mrs May’s Brexit deal.
Mr Marr then proceeded to question the Chancellor again on whether additional money had been promised to the DUP to ensure their support as Mr Hammond attempted to dodge the question.
The BBC host continued: “It’s slightly odd that, as the Chancellor, you were involved in these conversations. Can you rule out that you haven’t offered them more money in return of voting for the deal?
“Let me ask the question again. Have you offered them any money in return for voting for the deal? Is it possible you’re going to give extra money in that deal in return for voting for the deal?”
Mr Hammond reiterated talks between Mrs May and the DUP had been focused on providing Belfast with reassurances Northern Ireland will not have to abide by a different regime than the UK in the event the controversial backstop included in the deal had to be triggered.
He said: “The DUP is primarily concerned about the threat of divergence between the regime in Northern Ireland and the regime in Great Britain. The DUP are passionate unionists, I’m a passionate unionist myself and I regard it as crucially important that we do not allow differences to grow up between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
“We are looking for ways in which the Government can reassure Northern Irish politicians about our clear intention to make sure there are no such differences as we go forward if the backstop ever had to come into force.”
The Chancellor continued: “This isn’t about money, this is about political reassurance. We are coming up to a spending review and we will have to look at all budgets, including devolved, blocked-ground budgets, in that spending review.
“We haven’t even started looking at it yet. We haven’t started the spending review yet. We’ve got an additional complexity in Northern Ireland as you know. The House of Commons voted a budget through for Northern Ireland last week and Northern Ireland is in very difficult circumstances.”
Mr Hammond also admitted the commemorative 50p coin expected to be issued to mark Brexit date on March 29 would have to be postponed as a withdrawal from the EU by that deadline is “physically” impossible.
He added: “I’m not sure whether the coins have been struck. They might become collector’s pieces, Andrew.
“They were never going to be circulating coins. They were always going to be collector’s coins, of which the Royal Mint issues quite a number.”