THE chairman of the UK Independence Party has said the party will consider an alliance with Jim Allister's TUV in future elections.
Paul Nuttall, UKIP MEP for the North West of England, was speaking to the News Letter yesterday after a low-key exploratory visit to the Province.
UKIP has only one politician in Northern Ireland at present — Kilkeel councillor Henry Reilly, who defected from the UUP.
Mr Nuttall described TUV leader Jim Allister as “a good guy” who worked closely with UKIP in Europe when an MEP.
“The reason we didn’t stand here in the last European election was to give Jim a free run,” he said, adding that UKIP “will explore” the possibility of an alliance with him in the future.
They haven’t selected anyone to stand in next year’s General Election here, with this visit being to “put out feelers”. But UKIP is now beginning to take Northern Ireland “very seriously”.
Mr Allister told the News Letter that his party would not be “slamming any doors” on the suggestion.
“Obviously I knew quite a lot of UKIP MEPs in Europe and had good working relationships with them on the big issues,” he said.
“I have a track record of working with them at a tactical level. We haven’t had discussions with them of that nature (about an alliance) but undoubtedly, on European issues, there is a fair degree of consensus between our parties.”
On Wednesday, Mr Nuttall met with students at Queen’s University and he said that the response was so positive that the party planned to set up a group there.
“We think there is a huge gap for a non-sectarian, pro-British party in Northern Ireland that believes in independence from the European Union,” he said, adding that the DUP have not voted on an EU referendum and are “not performing” in government while slating the Tories for backing out of promises for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Although against “excessive immigration”, Mr Nuttall rails against the BNP for its “racist” stance on the matter, pointing out that prominent members of his party are black and Asian.
He also dismissed the millions of pounds in EU Peace money which has come to Northern Ireland: “It was all our money in the first place. It costs us 45m a day to be a member of the EU and we get just under half of that back again.”