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UUP's Jim Nicholson will not stand in European elections

Jim Nicholson has said he will not contest the European election set for later this month

UUP MEP Jim Nicholson has announced he will not stand in the May 23 European election after holding one of the north's three European Parliament seats for almost 30 years.

The 74-year-old, who was first elected to Europe in 1989 after losing his Newry and Armagh Westminster seat, said that it was “time to hand the baton on”.

The EU's decision to grant an extension to Article 50 means the UK is now likely to have to elect representatives again to the European Parliament.

Mr Nicholson said: "There has been a lot of speculation regarding my intentions after it was announced that European elections are scheduled to take place on 23 May. I said a few weeks ago that it was time to hand the baton on and that is still my belief. Therefore I won`t be putting my name forward to seek selection as the Ulster Unionist Party`s candidate in the forthcoming European elections".

The UUP veteran was critical of the British government's Brexit negotiations.

“The way in which Brexit has been handled is scandalous," he said ."It is well known that I supported remain, however, we made clear after the referendum result that the democratic vote should be respected and the United Kingdom should be leaving the EU. We need an end to the uncertainty and I would like to see the UK leaving the EU by the end of June with a sensible deal."

The Electoral Office has confirmed that unless Brexit happens in the meantime, the poll will take place on Thursday May 23 – three weeks after the local government elections.

Counting of votes will begin the following Monday May 27.

The DUP has confirmed that sitting MEP Diane Dodds will be the party's candidate while Sinn Féin confirmed today that Martina Anderson will look to retain her seat.

Both the SDLP and Alliance said last week they were in the process of selecting candidates to contest the election.

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