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What will a Conservative and DUP deal mean for UK law?

12th June 2017

Parliament

Despite pollsters predicting a “landslide victory” for the Conservatives, the party failed to win a majority in the general election, and has sought help from the Democratic Unionists Party. At 10pm on June 8, politicians, the public and those in legal jobs were stunned by the exit poll, which predicted the Conservatives would fall short of the required 326 seat majority.

After a surge in support for Labour, fuelled by leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Conservatives were left with 318 seats, eight short of an overall majority. The Conservatives and the Democratic Unionists Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland are now negotiating terms for a possible minority or coalition government.

As news unfolded on June 9, the media revealed the DUP’s controversial stance on abortion and LGBT rights. In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal and the DUP has consistently campaigned to keep it that way.

Although same-sex marriage became legal in the UK in 2013, the DUP has vetoed several attempts to pass this legislation in Northern Ireland. In an article by The Independent, DUP leader Arlene Foster is quoted as saying: “I could not care less what people get up to in terms of their sexuality, that’s not a matter for me – when it becomes a matter for me is when people try to redefine marriage.” MP Ian Paisley Jr, the son of the party’s founder Ian Paisley, was also quoted as saying homosexuality is “immoral, offensive and obnoxious”, adding that he is “repulsed by gay and lesbianism”.

With laws protecting equal rights and women’s reproductive rights already in place in the UK, there are concerns over the DUP’s potential influence on current and future legislation. As well as the DUP’s controversial views, there are also fears for Britain’s economy. Talks between the parties have already been extended and Brexit negotiations look set to be put on hold, although the prime minister is adamant that talks will start on time.

Theresa May has been warned that the EU will take a year to draft a new mandate for its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, thereby halting the Brexit negotiations, if she insists on discussing a future trade relationship at the same time as the UK’s divorce bill. According to a report in The Guardian, the EU is growing impatient with the “shambolic state” of British politics.

The two parties have yet to reach an agreement, however it is expected that the DUP will propose specific terms, some of which contradict the Conservative party manifesto. As the news unfolds in the coming weeks, it will become clear just how much UK law will be affected by the minority or coalition government.