Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey will today champion the cause of restoring his party’s historic link with Conservatives as ending Northern Ireland’s status as a ‘place apart’.
Sir Reg is set to use his party’s annual conference, delayed from September, as a platform to argue the proposals could shift the province from the ‘ledge’ to the heart of the union.
He was also expected to pour scorn on the record in government of his Stormont Executive partners, the DUP and Sinn Fein and set out the difference between his party’s approach and their main rivals.
The Employment and Learning Minister will say: “We want to fashion a plan for the long-term future of Northern Ireland. We want to give people here the chance to vote for local, regional and national politics, like everyone else in the United Kingdom.
“We want to end the democratic deficit. We want to give people the opportunity to vote for candidates who can actually become members of our government. When our negotiations with the Conservative Party are concluded, we will have delivered something that hasn't happened for generations — we will have ended Northern Ireland's status as “a place apart”.
The polling for the UUP shows more than 80 per cent of their own supporters want a Conservative government headed by Mr Cameron. It came as Mr Cameron was due to arrive in Belfast this morning for a ‘meet the people’ event and also to address the UU gathering in south Belfast.