Who Are The Northern Irish Unionists And What Do They Stand For?

The Union Flag flies near the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh KilcoyneThe Union Flag flies near the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne - RTX39MBN

The northern Irish unionists, who will help form a coalition government with the British Conservative party in the United Kingdom, holds positions that could be consequential to the outcome of Brexit and the U.K. overall.

The party remains ideologically opposed to same-sex marriage and has successfully kept the policy from being implemented in the territory of Northern Ireland.

“They are not going to influence me by sending me abuse – in fact, they are going to send me in the opposite direction and people need to reflect on that,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said in 2016 of the gay marriage lobby in the U.K.

The group is generally Protestant in origin and also remains vehemently opposed to the legalization and implementation of abortion. “I would not want abortion to be as freely available here as it is in England,” Foster said in 2016.

The DUP’s economic position’s are also out of step with the domestic policy positions of the conservative party including mandatory pension increases, and winter fuel allowances doled out by the government annually.


The DUP’s most consequential position, however, entails Brexit. British Prime Minister Theresa May called Thursday’s election specifically to enhance her Brexit negotiating power with the European Union. The party has spoken in the past against some of the elements of May’s vision for a “hard Brexit.”

May made a “hard Brexit” a centerpiece of her election campaign. The policy essentially means the U.K. would withdraw from the European Union single market and limit the ability of EU citizens to live and work freely within the country. DUP leader Arlene Foster has said in the past “no-one wants to see a ‘hard’ Brexit, what we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union.”

A “soft Brexit” could include multiple trade deals between the U.K. and EU countries or a treaty between the two granting the U.K. access to the single market while also letting them negotiate their own outside trade deals.

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Saagar Enjeti
the authorSaagar Enjeti
National Security/Foreign Policy Reporter

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