Northern Ireland’s pro-Brexit unionists avoid talk of Europe

BELFAST — In Northern Ireland, pro-Brexit unionists insist the general election isn’t really about Europe. Their opponents disagree.

The Democratic Unionist Party’s strong performance in the 2017 election, when it won 10 seats in the House of Commons, gave it a strong hand and allowed it to prop up a minority conservative government. But they go into this election having been unceremoniously dropped by Boris Johnson, who signed off on a Brexit withdrawal deal with the EU that would effectively create a barrier in the Irish Sea, a clear breach of the DUP’s “blood red line.”

Pro-Remain nationalists want to make the election in Northern Ireland all about London’s Brexit betrayal, and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald pitched her party’s manifesto as a rejection of Brexit and of Westminster (Sinn Féin doesn’t take its seats in the Commons.)

“In this election is important that people use, that people lend, that people borrow votes from others, to ensure that loud and clear again it is heard the north has not consented to Brexit, the north has not and will not consent to Brexit,” McDonald said.

But DUP leader Arlene Foster told POLITICO domestic issues were “very much at the top of the agenda” on the doorstep after thousands of healthcare appointments were canceled in the middle of the election campaign when nurses went on strike.

A recent poll carried out by LucidTalk shows support for the DUP has stayed strong, with projections suggesting it will remain the biggest party on 28 percent

It is a striking contrast to the campaign run by Johnson,

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