Arlene Foster 'on the brink of being forced out as DUP leader'

Arlene Foster is on the brink of being forced out as DUP leader after a ‘majority of party’s assembly members and half its MPs sign letter of no confidence’ amid growing backlash over handling of Brexit

  • Arlene Foster facing prospect of leadership contest amid growing party unrest
  • Three quarters DUP assembly members said to have signed no confidence letter 
  • At least half of the party’s eight MPs in Westminster said to have signed the letter
  • Remains unclear if Mrs Foster would contest a leadership vote if one is triggered
  • The First Minister is facing an internal party backlash over her handling of Brexit 

Arlene Foster is on the brink of being forced out as DUP leader amid a growing backlash at her handling of Brexit.  

Three quarters of the party’s Northern Ireland Assembly members have signed a letter of no confidence, according to Sky News. 

Meanwhile, at least half of the party’s MPs in Westminster as well as some of its peers have also backed the push against Mrs Foster, according to the Belfast News Letter. 

Reports suggest that 21 MLAs, four MPs and at least one peer have signed the letter. 

Voting in a leadership contest would likely be restricted to the party’s 27 MLAs and eight MPs. 

If the reported numbers backing the no confidence letter were replicated at a formal contest Mrs Foster would see her five and a half year tenure as party leader come to an end.  

It remains unclear whether Mrs Foster, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, would contest a leadership vote if one is triggered. 

But her position at the top of the party appears to be in growing peril, with DUP sources telling PoliticsHome that Mrs Foster is in ‘very dangerous territory’.

Another source said they expect Mrs Foster to resign due to the scale of opposition against her.        

Mrs Foster yesterday dismissed suggestions that her leadership of the party was in jeopardy. 

She said that ‘these stories come up from time to time’ and she intended to ‘deal with it and move on’.  

Arlene Foster, pictured yesterday during a visit to a youth centre in Belfast, is on the brink of being forced out as DUP leader amid a growing backlash at her handling of Brexit

The DUP has responded to the reports that a significant number of elected representatives have signed a letter of no confidence in Mrs Foster.   

The party said its internal democratic electoral processes were a matter for its members and declined to make further public comment on Mrs Foster’s future.

‘The Democratic Unionist Party conducts its business in accordance with its constitution and rules,’ the party said in a statement. 

‘The Officers of the Party oversee the conduct and organisation of its internal democratic electoral processes. 

‘Whilst understanding that there will be from time-to-time public interest in party processes, these issues, in the first instance, are matters for members of the party and we are not able to make any further comment at this time.’ 

There has been growing discontent among DUP members about Mrs Foster’s leadership in recent months.

The primary source of their concern is her handling of the Brexit process. 

The DUP is facing anger from the wider loyalist and unionist community over the rollout of the Northern Ireland Protocol which critics argue has created an economic and trade border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

Critics have accused Mrs Foster of failing to use the party’s influence in Westminster – particularly during its confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives – to secure a Brexit deal that saw Northern Ireland leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the UK.

Poor polling numbers have exacerbated the discontent among the party faithful. 

Responding to reports of internal party unrest, Mrs Foster said yesterday: ‘Stories on leadership come up from time to time, and it’s one of those times. 

Critics have accused Mrs Foster of failing to use the party’s influence in Westminster – particularly during its confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives – to secure a Brexit deal that saw Northern Ireland leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the UK

‘So we’ll just deal with it and move on because I’ve bigger things to do, including getting us through this Covid pandemic, including listening to the concerns of working-class communities. These stories come up from time to time. This is no different.

‘I haven’t received any letters from constituency associations so I’m not going to get into a running commentary on these issues, they come up from time to time. I think it’s important to note that there is the big job of work to do. We have a year left of this mandate.

‘It’s important that we lift our eyes and continue the work of rolling out of the restrictions, deal with the Northern Ireland Protocol.’ 

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