In a joint article published in the Daily Telegraph on July 24th, UUP leader Sir Reg Empey and British Conservatives leader David Cameron announced that alliance talks have been under way between the two parties for the last few months.
A joint statement, written by both leaders, confirmed that “In recent months the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionist Party have held a series of discussions to consider matters of mutual concern and interest.”
Sir Reg Empey and Mr Cameron revealed that a formal working group has been set up to study a possible merger of the UUP into the British Conservatives.
“We agreed to set up a joint working group to explore the possibilities of closer cooperation leading to the creation of a new political and electoral force in Northern Ireland”, declared Sir Empey and Mr Cameron.
The working group created by the Ulster Unionist Party and the British Conservatives will report to both parties in the autumn.
Should the talks succeed, the Ulster Unionist Party could merge into the British Conservative Party, which would for the first time field candidates in Northern Ireland.
Ulster Unionists and British Tories' political relations stretch back to the 1880s, but formal links between the two movements ended in the 1970s after Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath suspended the Stormont Parliament.
In the article, both leaders highlighted the historic ties between the Ulster Unionists and the British Tories, and expanded on their intention to shift the focus of politics in Northern Ireland into bread-and-butter issues:
“Many people are becoming exasperated by local politicians concentrating on what appear to be exclusively parochial issues. Like most others in the UK, what really worries them is social breakdown, fuel duties, the 10p tax row, excessive regulation on business, pensions and the Lisbon treaty”, wrote Sir Empey and Mr Cameron.
SDLP delegation meet with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour Party
The joint declaration made by the leaders of the UUP and the British Conservatives follows a previous announcement made in late 2007 by Fianna Fáil and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), which are currently in talks over a possible merger.
A SDLP delegation visited the Irish Parliament in Dublin on July 3rd 2008, where they met with representatives of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party.
The chairman of the SDLP delegation, Eamon Mullan, declared that the Dublin meetings were “exploratory” and the discussion topic had been the future of politics on the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
» Fianna Fáil may contest elections in Northern Ireland