Northern Ireland news

DUP disaster sees party lose MP and face Irish Sea border

Colum Eastwood was on course to take Foyle. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE DUP has suffered a disaster at the polls, losing one of its MPs and facing the real prospect of a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

With Boris Johnson on course to secure a clear parliamentary majority, Arlene Foster's party's reduced tally of MPs have also lost their influence at Westminster.

It looked to be better news for the SDLP whose leader Colum Eastwood was on course take Foyle from Sinn Féin, with his colleague Claire Hanna also expected to be victorious in South Belfast.

The surge in support for Alliance that saw Naomi Long elected as an MEP in May carried her deputy Stephen Farry to a spectacular victory in North Down, the seat vacated by independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon.

A predicted Westminster majority of more than 80 Conservative MPs means the UK is set to leave the EU at the end of January, under the terms of the withdrawal agreement brokered in October.

The revised deal, which removed the controversial backstop, keeps Northern Ireland aligned to aspects of the single market but outside the customs union. Most significantly, it keeps the border free-flowing and avoids the need for checks on goods moving between the north and the Republic. Instead, goods moving between Britain and the north will be monitored at ports and airports.

Sammy Wilson, who was last night course to retain his East Antrim seat, said the Tories' majority "presented certain challenges for us" but insisted the DUP could still have "leverage" at Westminster.

The growth in support for the SNP, which was forecast to take all but four of Scotland's 59 seats, will also sit uncomfortably for unionists.

At 2 am this morning, the knife-edge contest in North Belfast where Sinn Féin's John Finucane was challenging DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds was too close to call.

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