Disputes begin after £1bn granted to Northern Ireland: Are Scotland and Wales entitled to similar money?
After Theresa May announced an additional £1bn will be granted to Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh governments began a formal dispute, claiming they are entitled to similar funds under the Barnett Formula. Is this related to the Tories’ DUP deal and are Scotland and Wales entitled to this money?
In June 2017, the Conservatives formed a ‘Confidence and supply agreement’ with the DUP party, meaning the DUP must support key policies that the Conservatives attempt to bring in. This will allow the Conservatives to act with majority in Parliament, making bringing in new policies and the Brexit process easier. As this acts significantly in the Conservatives’ favour, it is no coincidence that the government decided to give this grant.
The Barnett formula is a formula used to calculate the money spent funding the countries or services in the countries that make up the UK. It takes into consideration the funding of the service in England and the population of the country in comparison to England. Using this formula, Scotland and Wales argue they should be entitled to £2.9bn and £1.6bn respectively. However, the Conservative party have claimed this grant is not within the money to which the Barnett Formula applies, as it is money granted to tackle unique challenges which Northern Ireland faces.
If this is a genuine grant to tackle specific challenges in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not entitled to any extra money, as the Barnett Formula only applies to money spent on services, which are mutual between the countries. However, since it remains unspecified as to the exact challenges this money will help to combat, it is likely that this money was given merely as a general grant to Northern Ireland after the DUP deal, in which case the Barnett formula should apply.
Countries in the UK have fought disputes based on this formula before: Scotland and Wales even received funding after England was given huge amounts of money for the 2012 Olympics in London. This is surprising, as the Olympics was clearly a ‘unique challenge’ in that it was held in England alone, perhaps showing that the Barnett Formula applies in the vast majority of circumstances.
Whether Scotland and Wales should be granted money is certainly debatable and depends largely on the reason for the grant to Northern Ireland. If the true intention of this grant is ever revealed, the validity of this claim can be confirmed.
Think this is complicated?
Well, you are correct. However lawyers like complicated problems as solving them is our passion. We also like to probe until we get to the bottom of things, if necessary obtaining court orders requiring others to produce documents. It would be very interesting to see if the documents relevant to the DUP grant supported the “unique challenge” argument.
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