Doug Beattie rules himself out of UUP leadership race and backs Steve Aiken for role
UUP MLA Doug Beattie has ruled himself out of the running to replace Robin Swann as the party's next leader.
In a statement the former soldier said he believed a leadership race would be a distraction in the face of Brexit and a potential General Election.
He backed party colleague Steve Aiken for the role.
Mr Aiken is currently the only candidate declared for the leadership, with former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt ruling himself out after being diagnosed with a heart condition.
Former Royal Navy Commander Mr Aiken became South Antim MLA in 2016.
Mr Beattie outlined his reasons for deciding not to stand for the UUP leadership
"I believe we are in a time of real political and social change and Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, must change to meet the challenges of the future," Mr Beattie said.
"The Ulster Unionist Party must remain vigilant in the face of Brexit as well as a possible General Election and I believe a leadership contest would be a distraction in this compressed political environment.
"Therefore I do not intend to stand for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party but to endorse Steve Aiken OBE MLA for the party leadership."
The Upper Bann MLA said that he would give Mr Aiken his full backing.
"He will, if duly elected, have the authority to bring the party onto a more progressive path both internally and externally and he will have my 100% support and loyalty," Mr Beattie said.
"I have been humbled by the support I have received over the last number of weeks asking me to stand for the leadership. However for me it is time to focus on our country and how unionism should be promoting inclusive politics. That means less about the flag, more about our shared future and the promotion, not just the defence, of the union."
UUP leader Robin Swann announced last month that he would be standing down from the role to spend more time with his family.
He had originally intended to stand down early next year, but brought it forward to a party meeting on November 9.
Belfast Telegraph Digital