UPDATE from TUV Press office, the confusion was because of News Letter sub-editing. The full line read as follows:
In reality, a first preference vote for any unionist other than a TUV candidate at the next election will be interpreted as an endorsement of Sinn Fein/IRAs place
“a vote for any unionist other than a TUV candidate will be interpreted as an endorsement of Sinn Fein/IRA’s place in government.”
“we agreed on the priority of retaining two unionist representatives in Europe. This should be the overriding priority of all unionists in respect of this election. Such is only attainable by full utilisation of transfers between the unionist candidates. Thus, we agreed to recommend such a voting strategy to all unionist voters.”
Allister’s comments leave room for a distinction between a 1st and a 2nd preference (UPDATE such a distinction was drawn in the full statement), electorally sensible but a case of opportunism over principle. Chekov argues it shows the UUP and TUV are on different pages, it also begs the question what if anything was actually agreed?