Protocol at top of agenda as Edwin Poots meets Brandon Lewis in Belfast

Incoming DUP leader Edwin Poots has held talks with the Northern Ireland Secretary in Belfast.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 11:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 11:34 am

Mr Poots had requested the face-to-face meeting with Brandon Lewis to discuss Brexit’s contentious Northern Ireland Protocol and a series of other issues.

The Lagan Valley MLA has said removing the Protocol, which governs Irish Sea trade, will be his main priority as DUP leader.

He was accompanied by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley for the early morning exchanges at Stormont House on Tuesday.

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DUP leader designate Edwin Poots (left) with party colleague Ian Paisley Jnr. leaving Stormont House in Belfast after a meeting with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Many unionists and loyalists are vehemently opposed to the Protocol, which has created economic barriers on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Poots did not stop to speak to the media outside Stormont House after the meeting with Mr Lewis. He has stated an intention to travel to London for further meetings with the government later in the week.

After his election on Friday, he called on rival unionists parties to work with him to undermine the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is proving to be a massive challenge for us and if we are to fight this to ensure that everybody in Northern Ireland is not worse off as a consequence of the protocol, then it’s for us to do that together,” he said.

Mr Poots, who recently recovered from cancer surgery, defeated the DUP’s Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in the battle to replace Arlene Foster.

He won by a razor-thin 19 votes to 17 in the poll carried out within the party’s 36-strong electoral college.

Mrs Foster was forced to quit after an internal heave against her by party colleagues unhappy with her leadership.

Mr Poots has been holding a series of meetings with DUP elected representatives ahead of deciding the make-up of his ministerial team at Stormont.

He has made clear he will not take up the role of First Minister, instead appointing a party colleague to the role.