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DUP's Euro voters can send May a message to 'get on with Brexit': Dodds

Diane Dodds, DUP candidate for the European election, with party leader Arlene Foster and her husband Nigel yesterday
Diane Dodds, DUP candidate for the European election, with party leader Arlene Foster and her husband Nigel yesterday

By Suzanne Breen, political editor

The European election is a chance to tell the Government to get on with Brexit and to strengthen the DUP's hand with the Prime Minister, the party's candidate Diane Dodds has said.

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As Mrs Dodds lodged her nomination papers yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph learned that almost 20,000 voters in Northern Ireland applied online to register to vote in the first 10 days of April alone.

The Electoral Commission had launched a 'Got 5' campaign earlier this year to encourage people not registered to vote to take five minutes to go online and do so before the April 12 deadline.

A total of 19,940 people made online applications to join the register between April 1 and 11.

The Belfast Telegraph can also reveal that Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea has asked for clarity on what happens to EU candidates' £5,000 deposits in the event of next month's poll being cancelled.

If the Tories and Labour reach a deal and the withdrawal agreement passes through Parliament, the May 23 election will not take place.

It has been suggested that deposits may not be refunded in these circumstances as the law is unclear. This would hit the smaller parties hard.

Ms McVea said: "I am awaiting clarification on what happens to deposits if the election is cancelled."

Lodging her nomination papers in Belfast, Mrs Dodds said: "This poll is an opportunity for anyone who wants the 2016 referendum result respected to 'tell them again'.

"In Northern Ireland almost 350,000 people voted Leave and many others who voted Remain still believe the result should be respected. Three years after the poll, we should have exited the EU but no one should be complacent.

"This is an important moment to strengthen the DUP's hand both in London and in Brussels. The DUP has stood strong for Northern Ireland. Our position has been consistent from the very beginning.

"It is inconceivable to ask any unionist to support a withdrawal agreement which could weaken the Union and separate Northern Ireland economically from our main market."

She continued: "We voted as one nation to leave. Northern Ireland is part of the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and therefore the UK is leaving.

"We want the UK to leave as one and we want our Prime Minister to get on with the job of doing it."

Mrs Dodds said that despite the DUP's pro-Brexit position, she was confident of securing the votes of unionists who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum.

Even though they were against Brexit, they didn't vote for Northern Ireland to leave the Union with Britain, she said.

Mrs Dodds was accompanied by DUP leader Arlene Foster, director of elections Gavin Robinson, and her husband, DUP deputy leader Nigel.

Mrs Foster said her party wanted to send a "very strong message to go back to Brussels and London to get on with leaving the EU".

When asked if the DUP would withdraw its support for the Government if Mrs May managed to get her Brexit deal through the House of Commons, Mrs Foster said: "There are a lot of ifs in there. I tend not to work on hypothetical situations."

When asked about the prospect of another confidence and supply arrangement, given her party's strenuous criticism of the Prime Minister, the DUP leader stressed that the current agreement was with the Conservative Party, not Mrs May personally.

There would be other senior Tories, apart from the Prime Minister, involved in any discussions about another confidence and supply arrangement, she added.

Mrs Foster said that Mrs Dodds had proven herself as a hard-working and conscientious MEP. "Both in Brussels and at home, her record is second to none," she said.

"This is most notable when you're with Diane in Brussels. She has been an excellent ambassador for Northern Ireland and her reputation for hard work and delivery goes before her.

"Whether it has been helping communities gain access to funding, speaking up for our core industries, uniting innocent victims of terrorism across Europe, or challenging internet giant Mark Zuckerberg about online safety, Diane has led the way."

Mrs Foster added: "Undoubtedly, this election will be focused on the UK's future relationship with the EU. While Donald Tusk 'dreams' of a Brexit reversal, we want to see Brexit delivery. The DUP's voice in London and Brussels can be bolstered by the people of Northern Ireland in this election."

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