TUV leader will run anti-protocol candidates against DUP in every constituency

Jim Allister refused to say whether he fears risk of splitting unionist vote

The leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party has vowed to run anti-protocol candidates across every constituency in Northern Ireland.

But Jim Allister refused to say whether he believes the move will risk splitting the unionist vote in the province.

Last month, the TUV struck an electoral partnership with Reform UK that will see them run agreed candidates in Northern Ireland.

A memorandum of understanding between the parties was announced when Reform leader Richard Tice attended the TUV conference in Co Antrim in March.

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The TUV is a vocal opponent of the post-Brexit trading arrangements that have created economic barriers on the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The party is a scathing critic of the DUP’s decision to agree a deal with the UK government on trade that saw it drop its two-year blockade of powersharing and return to devolved government at Stormont.

Asked whether it is his intention to run anti-protocol candidates from either his party or Reform in each of the 18 constituencies at the next general election, Mr Allister said it “certainly is the aspirational intention”.

“We haven’t named 18 candidates but yes, I said that it was our intention to seek to do that,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Northern Ireland show.

Mr Allister said that people who are “discomforted by” Brexit’s contentious Northern Ireland Protocol are entitled to have their say.

Running anti-protocol candidates in constituencies such as Lagan Valley and East Belfast could put pressure on the DUP to hold on to its seats.

“If the greater number of unionists reject this Donaldson deal, then it’s dead in the water, and that’s the opportunity they’ll be given, and why shouldn’t they be,” Mr Allister said.

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“Democracy is about letting the people decide. The people may well decide that there’s not much difference between a protocol-implementer, if they are a protocol-implementer, no matter what flag they fly.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson stepped down last month after being charged with sexual offences. The party’s Deputy First Minister, Emma Little-Pengelly, remains in office in Stormont, however, following the restoration of powersharing after a two-year absence in February of this year.

Asked if he will stand in the next general election, Mr Allister said we will “have to wait and see”.

“There is a time and a place for these declarations and that time and that place will come,” he said. – PA

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