Foster, Swann confirm election pact in just two seats

UUP leader Robin Swann and DUP leader Arlene Foster

UUP leader Robin Swann and DUP leader Arlene Foster

There will be no unionist pact beyond the two seats where it had already been made clear, Arlene Foster and Robin Swann last night announced.

In a development which will dismay traditional unionists hoping for an expansive pan-unionist deal, the DUP and UUP leaders have outlined an arrangement which involves half the number of seats in which the parties had a deal two years ago.

Only Fermanagh-South Tyrone and North Belfast – where the outgoing MPs, Tom Elliott and Nigel Dodds respectively, will stand – are part of the pact.

On the face of it, that appears to leave the DUP’s Gavin Robinson to take on both Naomi Long and a UUP candidate in East Belfast.

However, the UUP has already announced that it will not stand in West Belfast but is not describing that as part of the pact.

When asked last night if there will definitely be a UUP candidate in East Belfast, a UUP spokesman would only tell the News Letter that the party would be announcing its remaining candidates shortly.

In a joint statement, Mrs Foster and Mr Swann said: “The forthcoming general election on June 8 is of significant importance to the United Kingdom in general and Northern Ireland in particular.

“As leaders of unionism we want first and foremost to encourage all those in Northern Ireland who value the Union between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom to vote in the general election.

“Regardless of whether people identify with a particular party affiliation or with none we urge all those who believe in the Union and its benefits to support pro-Union candidates.

“Both of our parties want to see the strongest possible vote for pro-Union candidates standing in all of the 18 constituencies across Northern Ireland.

“We are committed to work cooperatively to do all we can to maximise voter turnout.”

The leaders went on: “While our parties have not concluded any formal pact arrangements on this occasion we are resolved to continue discussions in the interests of better unionist cooperation beyond this election period.

“We are collectively determined to make the case for the Union and to work together in the best interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.

“It is in that spirit that we will conduct our respective election campaigns.”