UUP leader Doug Beattie concedes he will lose votes after pulling out of anti-protocol rallies

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has predicted he will lose votes over his move to withdraw from anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rallies.

Mr Beattie was commenting after his constituency office was vandalised hours after he announced that his party was stepping away from the controversial loyalist demonstrations against Brexit’s Irish Sea border.

“I won’t lie for a vote, and if I lose votes I will lose votes,” Mr Beattie said.

“People who know Upper Bann will understand that in many cases I will lose votes because of the decision I have made, but it’s the right decision.

UUP leader Doug Beattie speaking to the media yesterday after he had a window smashed at his office.

“I’m not doing this for a vote, I’m doing this because the tensions in Northern Ireland are rising, and somebody can smash my window but I can fix it, but the first time that someone gets injured, the first time that someone gets killed, there is no going back on that.

“We are in a spiral of violence that I do not want to get us into.

“This is nothing to do with the election, this is purely to do with protests around the protocol, which I do not think that we should get involved in to raise tensions.”

On Sunday evening, the UUP leader claimed anti-protocol rallies were being used to whip up tensions in Northern Ireland.

He linked the increasing political volatility to an upsurge in paramilitary activity, including a bomb hoax at an event attended by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney in north Belfast on Friday.

Yesterday, Mr Beattie said he did not know if paramilitaries had attended the rallies, adding: “If you’re going to ask me to speculate, I will speculate and speculate by saying yes, I do think they will have been there.”

He told reporters in Belfast: “But I can only speculate, the answer is I simply do not know.”