DUP conference: Nigel Dodds points to possibility of early Westminster election

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds points to an increased likelihood of a 2017 election. Picture by Mark Marlow, Pacemaker Press

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds believes there is a growing likelihood of a general election next year.

Speaking at the DUP party conference, the North Belfast MP said a Westminster poll in 2017 was “less likely than not” but that his party was “making plans on the basis that there may be an early general election”.

He said British Prime Minister Theresa May’s slender majority meant she could decide to go the the polls to secure a stronger mandate ahead of Brexit.

“It’s tempting in that she has a very small majority and a lot of difficult issues to tackle on Brexit,” Mr Dodds told The Irish News.

“I’m picking up at Westminster that there’s a growing sense that in order to have a big majority to carry out the difficult decisions, without having to calculate who’s going to be rebelling and all of that, that she may go for election.”

The DUP deputy leader said the election would be timed before substantive negotiations about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU got underway.

“If she does (call an election) it’ll be before the Brexit negotiations begin seriously though not necessarily before triggering Article 50 and not during the negotiations – so you’re looking at next year some time,” he said.

“She wants to go to 2020 and her team does to – that’s very clear and if things go reasonably well that’s what they’ll try to do.

“I just get a sense that they realise there’s more trouble on the Tory back benches with the likes of Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan and Claire Perry who will if necessary cause her problems with Brexit.”

Mr Dodds said that if there was an election next year the Conservatives would be returned with a “much stronger majority”.

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