Michael Gove can 'command the confidence' of the DUP
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said he is in a "strong position to command the confidence" of the DUP as he bids to become Prime Minister.
The DUP are currently in a confidence-and-supply agreement with the Conservatives, effectively keeping them in power. The arrangement is up for review this summer.
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Gove said he was a "unionist to my bootstraps".
"One of the reasons I am in politics is to strengthen the United Kingdom," he said.
"I have been very critical of terrorism and separatism in the past. That means I am in a strong position to command the confidence of the unionists who are our confidence-and-supply partners.
"I've worked hard in Northern Ireland and in the Republic in order to bring people together during the time I have been in Government and I know that I am ready to deliver a good Brexit deal and a deal that will deliver a stronger United Kingdom."
Mr Gove was also questioned about his previously critical take on the Good Friday Agreement.
In 2000, Mr Gove wrote a paper called Northern Ireland: the Price of Peace, in which he was strongly critical of the Good Friday Agreement, which he called a “rigged referendum”, a “mortal stain” and “a humiliation of our army, police and parliament”.
"I was critical of some of the ways in which Tony Blair handled the peace process," he said.
"I have consistently taken a tough line against terrorism. But it is also the case we have had 20 years of the benefits of peace in Northern Ireland and in my job I have worked effectively with Irish government ministers to ensure the gains of the peace process have been secured."
Like the DUP, the Environment Secretary is strongly opposed to the controversial backstop, designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Arelene Foster's party feel the mechanism would mean Northern Ireland is treated differently than the rest of the UK, thus threatening the Union.
Michael Gove reiterated his view that he wanted to see a "full stop to the backstop" and hopes for a Brexit deal that would strengthen the UK.
Meanwhile, fellow contender for the Tory leadership position, Boris Johnson, told The Sunday Time he would scrap the backstop and settle the border issue only when the EU is ready to agree a future relationship.
Belfast Telegraph Digital