General election: Steve Aiken hoping to take on Sammy Wilson in East Antrim

Incoming UUP leader Steve Aiken
Incoming UUP leader Steve Aiken
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Incoming Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken is hoping to take on the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Smamy Wilson in East Antrim at the general election, the News Letter understands.

Mr Aiken has not confirmed that it is his intention to be a candidate but yesterday Newtownabbey DUP councillor Stephen Ross said that there were rumours that he would be standing in East Antrim.

UUP sources have confirmed that he hopes to be a candidate in East Antrim, although one of the constituency’s UUP MLAs, Roy Beggs, is believed to also have expressed interest in being the candidate.

Mr Aiken is an MLA for neighbouring South Antrim but the UUP candidate there will be Danny Kinahan, who had been an MP until 2017 when he lost to the DUP’s Paul Girvan.

When asked about Mr Aiken standing in East Antrim, a UUP spokesman said: “We are going through our election process and will announce all our candidates very soon.”

When asked if the UUP would definitely be running 17 candidates, rather than pulling out of further constituencies, the spokesman said: “We are going through our selection processes to select 17 candidates.”

Mr Wilson has been the DUP’s most outspoken Brexiteer, while Mr Aiken has made clear that he intends to move the UUP towards a position of remaining in the EU.

Mr Wilson has a majority of 15,923 – with the UUP in third place behind Alliance in the last election.