Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots steps out of Democratic Union Party (DUP) headquarters during a vote to replace former First Minister Arlene Foster in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, May 14, 2021. REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne
The new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP) has pledged to unite the rival factions of the union movement to fight the Brexit agreement and lay the foundation for keeping the province within the United Kingdom.
Edwin Poots, considered by some commentators to be more aggressive in his opposition to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade barriers and more socially conservative than his opponent Jeffrey Donaldson, was elected leader of the region’s largest party on Friday.
The Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister takes over at a time of instability in the UK province and union rage over the Northern Ireland Post-Brexit Protocol, which established a customs border with the rest of the United Kingdom.
“The Northern Ireland Protocol has proved to be a huge problem for us, and if we want to fight it, we must do it together,” said Poots, a young Earth creationist who rejects the theory of evolution since his election. …
“This party was the true voice of the union movement and will continue to be the true voice of the union movement under my leadership.”
The protocol leaves Northern Ireland in EU trade, avoiding a hard island border with EU-member Ireland, but infuriating pro-British unions, undermining the region’s place in the UK.
He was blamed in part for the recent unrest by young pro-British loyalists. On Friday, a lawsuit began against the agreements partly initiated by the DUP.
UK and EU negotiators said they will seek to smooth out disruptions to trade in everyday goods such as British cheese in the coming weeks. DUP wants to completely abandon the protocol.
“From a protocol standpoint, this is all a bit like a fantastic competition because the DUP can’t get rid of it,” said John Tong, professor of politics at the University of Liverpool, describing the election as “reuniting the DUP with its past.” …
Poots said he plans to appoint another party member to replace Arlene Foster as Northern Ireland’s first minister and share the roles of party leader and government.
He is one of many DUP ministers who have protested against the Brexit accords by refusing to attend meetings with their Irish counterparts established under the 1998 peace accord that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
This has strained relations with Irish nationalist rivals Sinn Fein, with whom they lead the power-sharing government of Northern Ireland.
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