European Election 2019

DUP look beyond both Brexit and Theresa May in EU manifesto launch

DUP Party manifesto launch at Seaview football ground in north Belfast. Pictured is party leader Arlene Foster with Diane and Nigel Dodds. Picture by Mark Marlow.

THE DUP made it clear at their EU election manifesto launch the party is not only looking beyond Brexit but beyond Theresa May's premiership.

Both party leader Arlene Foster and candidate Diane Dodds set out that the campaign slogan `Defend the Union Deliver Brexit' has been carefully chosen, emphasising that the former trumps the latter again and again in their address to the DUP faithful and media.

To that end, they called on unionist voters to select Dodds `1', before moving on to a unionist of their choice - regardless of that candidate's position on leaving the EU.

"The union (is) the first and most important priority for us," Mrs Foster said simply at Seaview football stadium in north Belfast, home of Irish Cup winners Crusaders.

"It is for the electorate to decide in relation to the other unionist that's returned."

Westminster watchers will take cognisance of Mrs Foster's scathing words about Theresa May, whose government is propped up by the 10 DUP MPs.

As well as lining her up alongside Brexit bogeymen Guy Verhofstadt, Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar, who "Diane Dodds has never been afraid to speak up and stand up" to, she was more direct.

"We have a prime minister frankly who doesn't have the vision for the United Kingdom post-Brexit that we all want to see.

"We want to see a United Kingdom that is strong post-Brexit and has a close relationship with Europe."

With the DUP and Sinn Féin expected to retain two of Northern Ireland's three European seats, the battle is on for the third seat, held by the retiring Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson.

He gained 22,000 transfers from Mrs Dodds last time round.

"I want to see two unionists returned. Colum Eastwood sees this as his chance to retake John Hume's seat alongside Martina Anderson," Mrs Foster said.

"To those who fear casting their first preference for the DUP may cost unionism a second seat, they need not fear."

Mrs Dodds is looking to the countryside and the coast to shore up support for both the party and Brexit.

There was an emphasis on how the campaign was winding its way along "the laneways and villages of Ulster" and "from the canteen in a cattle mart to Orange halls".

Mrs Foster said: "The stakes could not be higher. The health of our democracy is on trial".

"After almost three years of hopeless government negotiation and utter contempt and intransigence by Brussels, the referendum result still hasn't been implemented. That simply isn't acceptable."

There was acknowledgement that Northern Ireland had voted to `Remain' by 56 per cent, but a reminder to unionists "the 2016 referendum was not an English vote, a Scottish vote, a Welsh vote or a Northern Ireland vote".

"It was a British vote - a national vote - to leave the EU together and it must be honoured."

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European Election 2019

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