Opinion: Theresa May's unholy alliance

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Last Update: 08:17
Coalition governments are normal in Europe. Theresa May΄s deal with the DUP is an exception. It puts peace in Northern Ireland in jeopardy and limits May΄s room to negotiate on Brexit, writes DW΄s Barbara Wesel.Generally, coalition building in London would be anything but exciting. By contrast, the Dutch governing coalition consists of five parties. A little shake-up in Britain΄s two-party-dominated system couldn΄t hurt, as happened between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats during David Cameron΄s tenure as prime minister. Now the Conservatives have to turn to a small party, given their failure to capture a majority in Parliament. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is hardly a political faction like any other. Theresa May could pay dearly for bringing it on board.

Uncertain partners

The DUP is a regional party from Northern Ireland. Extremely socially conservative, it is against same-sex marriage, abortion and otherwise comes off as a relic of the 19th century. The party is vehemently protestant, which poses problems for a postmodern UK. Critics call the DUP sectarian. The party, or at least its founding generation, has been accused of ties to extremists and terrorists.

This is no party London should get in bed with. Doing so calls into question the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland. London needs to remain neutral, which Theresa May cannot be while pledging a billion pounds and other concessions in exchange for the DUP΄s allegiance. The impartiality could have dangerous consequences in Belfast.

Support for Brexit?


May needs the DUP΄s support most of all for Brexit, especially in getting a deal through parliament. Even with DUP backing, it may be difficult: Just seven Tories need to change sides to bring the shaky Brexit house down and send May packing.

While the DUP is for May΄s version of a hard Brexit, the party also wants to keep the border with Ireland open. This political oxymoron makes compromise hard and restricts May΄s room to negotiate, leaving her talks in Brussels even more beholden to goodwill and DUP demands.

A strong and stable government?



Both supporters and opponents see May΄s days in power as numbered, perhaps as soon as September or a few months thereafter. Her successor would inherit the DUP alliance. Such political uncertainty leaves London without a solid majority for concluding a halfway sensible Brexit deal. Other political and economic matters may be hard to agree on as well, given the DUP΄s fundamentalist character.

Theresa May΄s political reality is far from the strong and stable government she envisioned when calling for early elections. Brexit opponents stand to gain from the governing chaos, which has opened doors long assumed to be closed. In London, all options seem to be back on the table.

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