How will a Tory-DUP deal affect Brexit talks?

DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Nigel Dodds arrive at 10 Downing Street. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Nigel Dodds arrive at 10 Downing Street. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
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The water has been poured, the ties straightened and the lengthy binders of documents prepared – yes, Britain’s Brexit negotiations with the European Union are about to get underway.

It seems the Conservatives’ warning that a Government of chaos would struggle to prepare for talks after the election was prescient.

Most observers just didn’t expect that Theresa May herself would be leading that Government.

David Davis, arch Brexiteer, now finds himself kicking off negotiations in Brussels, despite the Eurosceptic minister declaring at the height of last year’s referendum campaign that any exit discussions would be taking place in Berlin.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon calls for inclusive Brexit approach

Davis’ recent political revival is so great that some Tories are even whispering of him as a potential leader - if he can steer the good ship Brexit through decidedly stormy waters.

Theresa May has yet to finalise the terms of her deal with the DUP, and with a Queen’s Speech looming, it remains at the top of the Prime Minister’s in-tray.

But how could any Tory-DUP deal influence Brexit negotiations?

The DUP, founded by the late Rev. Ian Paisley Sr in 1971, has always been a Eurosceptic party.

While they may have moved away from the view endorsed by their founder that the EU was ‘a Vatican plot’, the party was always likely to back Brexit.

READ MORE: UK plans a ‘deal like no other’ on Brexit

That’s not to say that the party’s decision to back Britain’s departure from the European Union was without controversy.

A wraparound advert in the Metro free newspaper - which isn’t distributed in Northern Ireland - was paid for by the party to promote the Leave campaign.

It came after a £400,000 donation to the DUP which took advantage of Northern Ireland’s unique electoral laws that don’t require large donors to be named.

Sovereignty is an important concept to a party like the DUP, and any Brexit deal that seems like a watering down of Brexit won’t go down well with the socially conservative party.

One issue which produces a rare consensus on all sides is the need to avoid a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

It is one of the most fluid borders between two separate states in all of the world. No checks are in place as families, commuters, and other citizens travel freely between the North and South.

Arlene Foster is united in her belief with the Governments of Ireland and the UK that a return to a hard border needs to be prevented.

Even the European Commission is in agreement with that point of view, but the position of strength that the DUP occupies in Theresa May’s beleaguered Government should reassure even their greatest enemies in nationalist politics that a hard border, with the associated passport checks and even armed guards, can be avoided.

It is thought that a hard border could even be a breach of the terms of the Good Friday agreement, which was passed in twin referenda on either sides of the border by massive margins.

Even though the issue of the border was raised in the immediate aftermath of the referendum result last year, the devolved administration that Brexit most people thought would be emboldened was in Edinburgh, not Belfast. Now, however, even without a functioning Executive at Stormont, it seems that it is to Northern Ireland that Mrs May will have to acquiesce.

Nicola Sturgeon wanted a seat at the table for Scotland in the Brexit talks, and possibly a separate deal for the country to stay in the single market.

It now seems that the SNP Government, under David Davis’ equivalent Michael Russell, will get neither of those requests.

Ms Sturgeon has already hit the button on her nuclear option, with the First Minister announcing her plans for a second referendum on independence just as Britain gears up to leave the EU.

Having had the vote blocked by the UK Government, the SNP then suffered the wrath of the electorate as opposition parties put Indyref2 front and centre of the campaign at the snap election.

It seems with the DUP now wielding more power as a result of their looming deal with the Tories, Scotland might struggle to get the bespoke deal that the SNP hopes for.