Brexit

Jim Nicholson says he won't contest European poll

Jim Nicholson will not contest the European election

VETERAN Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has said he will not stand in next month's 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 for up to six months means the UK is now likely to have to elect representatives again to the European Parliament.

Mr Nicholson said there been much speculation about whether he would contest the May 23 poll.

"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," he said.

The departing UUP MEP 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."

Last night it was reported that former Newry and Armagh MLA and Stormont minister Danny Kennedy plans to put his name forward for selection.

The DUP has already confirmed that sitting MEP Diane Dodds will be the party's candidate, while Sinn Féin confirmed on Saturday 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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