General Election

Sir Reg claims DUP-Tory pact could prove problematic for prime minister

A DUP billboard criticising the Ulster Unionists' link-up with the Conservatives in 2010

AN Ulster Unionist peer believes the DUP's influence on Theresa May is being exaggerated but the relationship could prove problematic for the prime minister.

Sir Reg Empey, who was leader of the UUP when it attempted a formal alliance with the Conservatives in the 2010 Westminster election, claimed many Tory backbenchers would be "very nervous" about the confidence and supply deal.

The former Stormont economy minister also noted the irony of the DUP, which had castigated his party for linking up with the Tories, now propping up Mrs May's government.

Lord Empey dismissed suggestions that Arlene Foster would influence policy in Britain but said the attitude of her party to social issues would make many Conservatives uncomfortable.

"They've done very well and I can't take that away from them, however, there's a lot of people on the Tory back benches who will be very nervous about all of this," he told The Irish News.

"While I accept that the social policies of the DUP aren't going to play any part in this, it and other issues are relevant in that they are a very sensitive issues that could reflect badly on the Conservatives."

He also noted how scandals that had been linked to the DUP could embarrass Mrs May.

"Let's not forget there are also financial issues still outstanding, such as Nama and RHI, and if things emerge about those scandals in the midst of all this that could certainly embarrass the government and it will make the Conservative back benches even more nervous."

Sir Reg speculated that the DUP would also be keen to keep the Conservatives at arm's length for fear of being damaged by association if Mrs May's credibility slips further.

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