Edwin Poots, the DUP leader ousted after 21 days in the job, has told Sky News he nominated a First Minister against his party’s wishes to fight the Brexit Protocol.
In an exclusive interview, he said: “My focus was on the Northern Ireland Protocol first and foremost because constitutionally that is what is damaging Northern Ireland.
“Our best asset at this moment in time in fighting the Protocol is actually having the Assembly.”
Mr Poots, who succeeded Arlene Foster as DUP leader in May, nominated Paul Givan to be First Minister last Thursday.
At the same time, his party was voting in a room next door not to nominate after the British government agreed to legislate for Irish Language rights at Westminster to keep Sinn Fein on board.
Mr Poots said: “I regret the fall-out from it. I think it was the right thing to do and it’s the right thing to do to ensure we have maximum leverage.
“Ultimately it was my intention had we not got success on the Protocol… then I would have been prepared to pull Paul Givan out of that job. That was something which I wished to express but didn’t get the opportunity to express.”
Jeffrey Donaldson has confirmed he will run for the leadership of the DUP.