UUP leader Robin Swann says party will learn lessons from disastrous European election

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Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has insisted his party will learn lessons from its disastrous European election campaign.

The party's candidate, former MLA Danny Kennedy, secured just over 53,000 first preference votes, giving him no chance of retaining the European Parliament seat that was held for so long by Jim Nicholson.

UUP leader Robin Swann

UUP leader Robin Swann

Reflecting on the election result, Mr Swann told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster radio programme he was "disappointed for Danny Kennedy".

"It wasn't a good day. I am not trying to spin it or dress it up in any shape or fashion," he said.

"It was a disappointing result. We had a good candidate in Danny Kennedy, but the vote just wasn't there."

The UUP leader said the party's message on the Brexit issue "could have been clearer" and acknowledged the Alliance Party saw a surge in support because of its clear position on 'Remain' and its support for a second referendum.

"We were trying to portray Danny as an MEP and what he would do when he went to Brussels as an MEP and the experience he carried with him. But the election was fought again on the referendum and the arguments that were there, so look, the messaging coming from our party could have been clearer of where we wanted to be," he continued.

Mr Swann vowed that the UUP will learn lessons from the election as it moves forward.

Asked about the party's future given its recent electoral losses, he replied: "The future of the Ulster Unionist Party lies in the hands of its elected representatives and the electorate. It is about us shaping that message to ensure the 95,000 people who voted for us three weeks ago at the next election see something in us that they can come back out and vote for Ulster Unionist candidates across Northern Ireland as they have in the past."