Reform strikes election pact with hardline Northern Ireland party

Jim Allister, the TUV leader, said: 'Like TUV, Reform UK speaks its mind'
Jim Allister, the TUV leader, said: 'Like TUV, Reform UK speaks its mind' - Charles McQuillan/Getty
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Reform UK has struck its first election pact with Northern Ireland’s Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), a hardline party that opposes Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal.

The TUV is led by Jim Allister, who got to know Nigel Farage, the honorary president of Reform, when the two were members of the European Parliament.

Announcing the deal, at the TUV party conference in Co Antrim on Saturday, Mr Allister said: “Like TUV, Reform UK speaks its mind, takes on the establishment and is driven by principle, not power. Our principles are neither optional nor for sale, but they are the stuff of conviction politics. We speak truth to power.

“We will formally endorse a joint platform by publicly signing a memorandum of understanding, and going forward we will announce agreed candidates from both parties across constituencies.”

Richard Tice, the Reform leader, and Ben Habib, his deputy – a vocal critic of Mr Sunak’s Windsor Framework – spoke at the conference.

Mr Tice ruled out any electoral pact with the Conservatives before an election the Tories are expected to lose to Labour, telling The Telegraph: “Absolutely not! No deals with Tories. I have said this hundreds of times.”

Mr Habib told the conference that “the only way to get back our country is by obliterating the Tory party”.

Nigel Farage and Jim Allister
Nigel Farage and Jim Allister got to know each other while members of the European Parliament

Mr Tice said he had “mixed feelings” about the pact, which could see Reform stand candidates against the DUP and other parties in Northern Ireland.

“We had hoped to stay out of party politics in Northern Ireland and instead to support all of political unionism. The DUP’s decision to endorse the Windsor Framework and falsely claim the end of the Irish Sea border leaves us with no option,” he said.

Reform and the TUV have agreed on six principles, which include upholding and strengthening the Union, rejection of the Irish Sea border, a robust immigration system and completion of a “full Brexit”.

Mr Allister was dubbed “Norn Iron Nigel” after he held the DUP’s feet to the fire over the Irish Sea border in a similar way to how Ukip forced the Tories to promise the Brexit referendum.

The DUP ended its two-year Stormont boycott over post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland in February after winning some extra concessions from Mr Sunak.

Mr Allister argues that the Windsor Framework has loosened Northern Ireland’s ties to the rest of the UK because the region continues to follow hundreds of EU laws to prevent the need for a hard land border with EU member Ireland.

Instead, customs checks are carried out on some British goods and animals entering Northern Ireland to ensure that they meet EU rules.

A critic of the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Allister is the TUV’s sole member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The party did not contest the 2019 general election but will campaign on a rejection of the Windsor Framework, which replaced the Northern Ireland Protocol, in a vote expected later this year.

Mr Allister said the vote would be “a roll call election for unionists who have not given up on the Union” and accused the DUP of becoming “protocol implementers”.

He attacked the DUP for joining a power-sharing administration, which has a Sinn Fein First Minister for the first time in Northern Ireland’s history.

“A roll call of those who repudiate a partitioning border in the Irish Sea. A roll call of democrats who reject being governed by foreign laws we don’t make and can’t change, and a roll call of unionists who refuse to take the knee to Sinn Fein or EU rule,” he said. “Together we can do it. Let the battle begin!”

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