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Picture_6 UpdateIt is being reported that the UUP Executive has backed the move as outlined below. We will cover the story and bring you reaction here on ToryDiary in the morning

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The Belfast News Letter and BBC Northern Ireland are reporting that tonight the Ulster Unionist Party’s executive committee will be meeting to decide on its future relationship with the Conservative Party.

Back in July, UUP leader Sir Reg Empey and David Cameron co-wrote a piece in the Daily Telegraph in which they signalled their desire for closer co-operation between their two parties and discussions have been ongoing ever since as to what form that co-operation will take.

I understand that David Cameron had hoped for a decision to be announced at the Tory conference in Birmingham, but as is ever the case in Northern Ireland politics, negotiations rarely adhere to timetables and so we have been waiting for some time for these talks to come to a conclusion.

The BBC suggests that whilst there will not be a formal merger and the parties will remain separate entities, a new Conservative and Ulster Unionist Joint Committee would be set up so that joint candidates could be fielded for Westminster and European elections. It cites a UUP source as saying that the deal was "95 per cent complete".

Assuming there is not a snap general election in the spring, this would mean that UUP MEP Jim Nicholson would be the first person to seek election under the new arrangement when he stands again for the European Parliament next June.

If a deal is struck, credit will be particularly due on the Tory side to Owen Paterson, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, who has been assiduously visiting the province on a weekly basis and doing much to bring the parties together.

Jonathan Isaby

21 comments for: Ulster Unionists decide on pact with the Conservatives

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