Former DUP leader Poots warns that Sinn Fein would WIN an election now

Former DUP leader Edwin Poots warns that Sinn Fein would WIN an election if Stormont government collapses amid unionist fury over Brexit trade agreement – as Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis says deal with EU is ‘not sustainable

  • Poots said SF ‘probably would have the largest number of votes and seats’
  • Warned a snap election ‘wouldn’t be a good election for unionism’
  • May poll put Sinn Fein ahead on 25% with DUP and Alliance tied on 16% 

Irish nationalists Sinn Fein would probably take power in Northern Ireland for the first time if there was an election today, outgoing DUP leader Edwin Poots warned today.  

He used an exit interview to warn that the party ‘probably would have the largest number of votes and seats as things stand’, making its leader in Ulster Michelle O’Neill the first republican First Minister. 

His comments come against a backdrop of serious unrest among unionists, with the Democratic Unionist Party itself fragmented for the first time in its 50-year history.

It is rallying against the Brexit deal agreed at the end of the last year which introduced customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, to the fury of loyalists.

The power-sharing Stormont Assembly is at risk of collapsing over a deal to allow Irish language teaching in the province, something seen by Unionists as a step towards reunification of Ireland.

Speaking to BBC Ulster today, who was leader for just 21 days before being replaced by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said: ‘I think if there was an election today – thankfully there isn’t – it wouldn’t be a good election for unionism.

‘They (Sinn Fein) probably would have the largest number of votes and seats as things stand.’

An opinion poll for the Belfast Telegraph last month put Sinn Fein ahead on 25 per cent of first-preference votes if there was an election, with the DUP tied on 16 per cent with the non-sectarian Alliance.

Mr Poots’ comments come against a backdrop of serious unrest among unionists, with the Democratic Unionist Party itself fragmented for the first time in its 50-year history.

He used an exit interview to warn that the republican party ‘probably would have the largest number of votes and seats as things stand’, making its leader in Ulster Michelle O’Neill the First Minister.

An opinion poll for the Belfast Telegraph last month put Sinn Fein ahead on 25 per cent of first-preference votes if there was an election, with the DUP tied on 16 per cent with the non-sectarian Alliance.

The DUP faces problems because it is leaking support to the Alliance from its more moderate supporters, while more hardline unionists are moving to support the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). 

It came as Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis today said it is reasonable to take the view that changes will be made to the Northern Ireland Protocol as it is ‘not sustainable’ in its current form.

The comments came after Mr Poots this week claimed he had received a personal assurance from the UK Government that significant changes will be made to the Protocol.

The UK Government and the EU are locked in a dispute over the implementation of the Protocol, the part of the Brexit divorce deal aimed at avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

Appearing before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Mr Lewis was asked what he had told Mr Poots.

He said: ‘We are very clear that the current position of the Protocol is not sustainable, it is causing issues for businesses and consumers and citizens in Northern Ireland and we need to rectify that.

‘Ultimately for us there is a very core point about the Protocol, which is about protecting and respecting the UK’s internal market and not disrupting everyday lives of people in communities.

‘We want to get that rectified and we are determined to do so, so I think it is reasonable for anybody to take the view that we have said that there will be changes because there has to be, the current status quo is not sustainable.’

Mr Lewis continued: ‘At the moment it’s very questionable whether it’s going to be sustainable in its current format and I think that’s why it’s in everybody’s interests to see it rectified.’

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