Northern Ireland’s DUP picks hard-liner Edwin Poots as new leader

Northern Ireland’s DUP picks hard-liner Edwin Poots as new leader

Northern Ireland’s DUP picks hard-liner Edwin Poots as new leader

Edwin Poots has become the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party after winning the first leadership contest in the party's history.

As agriculture minister in the five-party coalition, Poots has attempted to obstruct and delay the efficient rollout of European Union sanitary checks on British goods arriving at Northern Ireland ports.

Poots was chosen ahead of Jeffrey Donaldson by the 36 members of the DUP's electoral college - MPs and members of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.

Victory for the blunt-spoken Poots means Northern Ireland's main British Protestant party will adopt a tougher stance against EU-required checks on goods arriving from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Poots succeeds Arlene Foster as the leader of the largest party in unionism after Foster took to the decision last month to step down.

Poots will replace Arlene Foster, who has led the DUP since 2015.

Paula Bradley
Northern Ireland’s DUP picks hard-liner Edwin Poots as new leader

Poots has also said he would split the roles of party leader and Stormont first minister, with the same person not being allowed to hold both roles. His election will now go to the party executive for ratification.

Reacting to his election, Poots, who recently underwent cancer surgery, said: "It is an huge honour and pleasure to stand here today in this position, it is not a position that I expected to be in some weeks ago".

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr said his father, the party's founder, would be "immensely proud" that a democratic election was deciding the next leader.

Sir Jeffrey and Mr Poots face several challenges, including post-Brexit trading arrangements under the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has been reviled by unionists and loyalists as a "border in the Irish Sea". "I will be a leader in unionism who will be reaching out to other leaders in unionism".

There were no public leadership hustings as part of the contest but both candidates circulated a manifesto to their voting colleagues of what they hoped to achieve.

As he arrived at headquarters, South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford, who is supporting Mr Poots, said: "I think it's going to be a good day, a good day for democracy inside the Democratic Unionist Party".

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