Belfast Telegraph

Great headlines but no foundation: Sammy Wilson says Arlene Foster has DUP backing

The DUP's Sammy Wilson.
The DUP's Sammy Wilson.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said that his party are fully behind Arlene Foster, despite speculation that the party leader could face the axe.

Mrs Foster has come under pressure in recent weeks after the RHI Inquiry showed widespread dysfunction within the DUP.

Rumours have circulated that Mrs Foster could be replaced before the party's annual conference in November.

The DUP's MLAs and MPs are set to hold a meeting in Portadown on Friday evening.

Mr Wilson told BBC Northern Ireland's The View the party were firmly behind their leader.

"It makes great headlines but it is without foundation. Arlene Foster has gone through a very hard time, she has taken more flak than many people would expect any person to have taken," the East Antrim MP said.

"She has stood strong and I think that she has the confidence of people and will continue to, but we certainly are not in the job of feeding media speculation or weakening the party at a time where we have more crucial things to deal with."

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday Mr Wilson said his party were willing to bring down Theresa May's government if she agreed to a Brexit deal separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Mr Wilson told host Mark Carruthers that his party was not bluffing on the issue.

"We're not bluffing, this is far too important an issue to bluff. If the government gives into what the European Union are demanding it will in effect leave Northern Ireland as an outpost of the EU and an outcast from the rest of the United Kingdom," the DUP stalwart said.

Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster (Victoria Jones/PA)
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster (Victoria Jones/PA)

"We will not accept an arrangement that Northern Ireland be kept within the EU while the rest of the UK leaves.

"This is not a game, this is a very, very serious issue, what happens in Northern Ireland could have implications for Scotland and the UK as a whole.

"Our aim is not to bring the government down, it is to bring the government round to what they agreed, that Brexit would affect the whole of the United Kingdom and not just part of it."

The East Antrim MP also rejected suggestions that the DUP would prefer Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister over Theresa May.

"We wouldn't let the Conservative Party tell us who should lead our party and I think it would be darn cheeky of us to say who should lead theirs," Mr Wilson said. 

"I believe Mrs May's policy, if she follows the EU line will break up the UK and we're trying to prevent that, we've had our difficulties with the Conservative Party in the past with the Anglo-Irish Agreement so we're under no illusions that we have a position at the moment which does give us some influence. While we have it we will use it for the good of people of Northern Ireland."

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