Alliance leader Naomi Long is going to stand in East Belfast in next month’s general election, she has confirmed – just months after being elected as an MEP in what was her party’s best ever result.
In a statement, Alliance said that Mrs Long was selected by party members to contest the seat, which she held for five years after her dramatic defeat of Peter Robinson in 2010.
The former MLA, whose party is enthusiastically pro-EU, said that she would be running on a platform of “ending the Brexit chaos and protecting Northern Ireland from any catastrophic no deal”.
Outgoing East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson has what on paper seems like a healthy lead over Mrs Long.
In the 2017 general election, he was 8,474 votes ahead of his rival, although Alliance’s vote has increased significantly across Northern Ireland since that election and Mrs Long has a track record of upsets.
Mrs Long said: “Brexit hasn’t happened yet but already it has brought increased division in our politics and more instability to our community.
“Locally, it is a major reason the Assembly has not returned and it presents a serious challenge to the Good Friday Agreement, as well as our economy and vision for a more shared and prosperous future.
“This election will choose the Parliament which ultimately determines our future relationship with Europe.
“Following Alliance’s successes in May’s elections, we are uniquely placed as the largest, most inclusive pro-Remain party that will go to Parliament and fight against the Brexit shambles which we have been subjected to over the past three years.”
If Mrs Long is successful in getting elected to Westminster again she would have to give up her MEP seat and co-opt a colleague to take her place in Brussels and Strasbourg.
She said: “I have used my role as MEP to ensure we avoided a catastrophic no deal by working to secure the extensions required, illustrating its utter folly to those in positions of responsibility in the EU, articulating its consequences for these islands and the EU of the kind of Brexit pursued by the Conservative government and their partners in the DUP.
“As someone who held the position of East Belfast MP previously and who has lived here all my life, I know the constituency well and know the devastating impact Brexit has already had not only on major employers and small businesses, but also on the levels of fear and uncertainty right across our community.
“I know the devastating impact it will continue to have both here and wider across Northern Ireland.”