May shakes magic money tree for Foster but no wand is waved to save Stormont

Senior figures from the Conservatives and DUP at yesterday's signing of the 'confidence and supply' deal inside Number 10 Downing Street

The north's roads, schools and health service look set to benefit to the tune of £1 billion after the DUP finally struck a deal to prop up the Tories' minority government.

But a "coordination committee" convened by the DUP and the Tories will decide how the money is spent in Northern Ireland if the Stormont talks fail.

Sinn Féin will be excluded from the decision making unless the executive is restored.

Talks at Stormont continued yesterday after Arlene Foster returned from London where she signed off on a deal with the Conservatives.

After 16 days of negotiations, DUP Westminster whip Jeffrey Donalson and his Conservative counterpart Gavin Williamson yesterday signed the 'confidence and supply' agreement which will see Arlene Foster's party support support Theresa May's government in key votes.

The deal means the DUP's ten MPs will vote with the Conservatives on the queen's speech and the budget, alongside legislation relating to Brexit and national security.

In exchange, the Tories have pledged around £1 billion to the regional coffers to be spent on infrastructure, health and eduction with enhanced flexibility on almost £500 million of previously allocated cash.

However, the Conservatives have been forced to ditch manifesto pledges to abolish the triple-lock protection for state pensions and means-test the winter fuel payment during this parliament.

Speaking outside Number 10, Mrs May said the two parties "share many values" and the agreement was "a very good one".

Mrs Foster said: "We're delighted that we have reached this agreement, which I think works, obviously, for national stability.

"In terms of the Northern Ireland Executive, of course we are determined to see it back in place as soon as possible as well, because we believe we need a strong voice for Northern Ireland when dealing not least with the Brexit issue."

The key financial components of the deal are:

:: £400m over two years for infrastructure including York Street Interchange;

:: £150m over two years for ultra-fast broadband;

:: £100m over five years to target pockets of severe deprivation;

::£100m over two years to combat pressures in health and education;

:: £200m over two years for health service transformation;

::£50m over five years for mental health;

:: Potential for 'city deals' and more 'enterprise zones'

:: Unspent shared education and shared housing funds can be reallocated.

As well as the financial commitments, the two parties have agreed that they will meet a NATO commitment of spending 2 per cent of GDP on the armed forces and that they will implement the military covenant in Northern Ireland.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the deal was "not in the national interest".

"Austerity has failed," he said. "Cuts to vital public services must be halted right across the UK, not just in Northern Ireland."

He said the Tory government needed to spell out where the money for the deal was coming from and whether other parts of the UK would benefit from similar funds.

"This Tory-DUP deal is clearly not in the national interest but in May's party's interest to help her cling to power," he said.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the content of the deal was "primarily a matter for those two parties".

He noted that the agreement provided for DUP support for British government legislation on Brexit.

"An enhanced Northern Ireland voice articulating an agreed devolved government position could see more effective and inclusive representation of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland at Westminster," he said.

Mr Coveney said that while the policy agreement contained elements that reflected both parties' "long-held views", he welcomed the recommitment to the Good Friday Agreement and its successors, as well as British government assurances to govern in the interests of "all parts of the community in Northern Ireland".

But Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams pledged to "resolutely oppose" any preferential treatment for British soldiers as part of deal.

Mr Adams also claimed the pact between the Conservatives and DUP provided a blank cheque for a Tory Brexit which threatens the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

"The price of today's DUP-Tory deal is DUP support for continued Tory austerity and cuts to public services," he said.

"It provides a blank cheque for a Tory Brexit which threatens the Good Friday Agreement."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it was now essential that an executive was to prioritise spending areas.

He said the funds needed to be spent fairly across the north.

However, Mr Eastwood was critical of the DUP's pledge to support the Tories on legislation around its exit from the EU.

"The Tories may have bought the DUP but we will continue to be vocal opponents of the hard Brexit juggernaut that is barrelling down the line," he said.

"People in Northern Ireland voted to defend our position in Europe, we will not quietly acquiesce to a Tory Brexit."

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