General Election: Aiken blasts DUP's record at Westminster as 'strategic calamity'
UUP leader Steve Aiken has launched a stinging attack on the DUP's record at Westminster - describing their three years of influence in the hung parliament as a 'strategic calamity' for the Union.
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Mr Aiken is contesting the general election in the East Antrim constituency, facing the DUP's Sammy Wilson.
Mr Aiken, a former Royal Navy submarine commander, yesterday rounded on the DUP, claiming they had not delivered and lacked influence in getting a Brexit deal acceptable to unionists.
He said: "We've heard the DUP claim that their days of influence in Westminster 'are not over'.
"Given that it was the DUP who made the catastrophic error of agreeing to a regulatory border in the Irish Sea on October 2 that paved the way for Boris Johnson's terrible deal, Northern Ireland and the Union can't afford to go through another Parliamentary term with the DUP being the sole voice of unionism from Northern Ireland in Westminster.
"Their pre-election pledges need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
"Arlene Foster has claimed that the DUP delivers better.
"If that were true, what happened to her pledge that 'We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom'?
"Instead they have delivered a strategic calamity for the Union."
Mr Aiken also had his East Antrim opponent, DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson, in his sights.
Mr Wilson has been MP for East Antrim since 2005. He had a majority of almost 16,000 at the last election in 2017.
Mr Aiken accused Mr Wilson of "playing fast and loose with the Union".
The UUP leader added: "In November 2017 he told the Guardian newspaper 'They have to recognise that if this is about treating Northern Ireland different, or leaving us half in the EU, dragging along regulations which change in Dublin, it's not on'.
"And then look what he did - he supported Boris Johnson's regulatory border in the Irish Sea.
"If this is the type of influence which the DUP exercise in Westminster, the Union is in peril."
But the DUP's Gavin Robinson, who is standing for election in the East Belfast constituency, strongly rejected the claims.
"It is disappointing that Steve Aiken's focus appears to be on dividing unionism," he said.
"DUP MPs voted against the Prime Minister's deal and our influence was clear when DUP MPs were crucial in defeating his attempt to push the timetable motion through the House of Commons.
"People should not waste their vote on parties with no influence and no plan.
"The DUP delivered over £1.5bn for everyone in Northern Ireland and we want to get more done."