A Brexit Pact is a No-Brainer for Sinn Fein (&, whisper it, not bad for the SDLP & Alliance too)

Both Unionist parties have already signalled their willingness to enter talks to agree the terms for an expected electoral pact, but expect speculation to develop about the prospect of a Brexit pact for the non-unionist parties.

Already, Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney and John O’Dowd have signalled support for such a position, and intriguingly the SDLP Foyle MP, Mark Durkan, did not close the door on such a proposal on The Nolan Show this morning (under interrogation from fellow commentator, David Gordon!)

The one party most likely to promote this is Sinn Fein, for obvious reasons.

The primary objectives for Sinn Fein will be to maintain the political and electoral momentum from this March’s election. The Brexit issue is one that has unnerved nationalists and contributed significantly to motivating nationalists to turn out in numbers not seen for many years- and also contributed towards the Alliance Party’s successful performance in March.

Consequently, ensuring that Brexit remains the pivotal issue for voters, as opposed to merely opinions on the constitutional question, will resonate with the broader nationalist and non-aligned electorates.

In a practical sense, a Brexit pact will be one that Sinn Fein will have to unilaterally flesh out above the heads of the other two parties most likely to benefit from such a deal, namely the SDLP and Alliance, who are likely to instinctively baulk at the prospect of aligning formally with republicans.

Sinn Fein will be confident of retaking the Fermanagh South Tyrone seat lost to Tom Elliott with or without an electoral pact with the SDLP, but taking the unilateral step of standing aside in South Belfast to promote the prospect of an anti-Brexit candidate triumphing ahead of the DUP’s candidate is likely to be well received by SDLP supporters regardless of the predictably dismissive response it receives from some in the SDLP leadership.

Similarly, were Sinn Fein to stand aside in East Belfast in order to bolster the prospects of the Alliance Party reclaiming that seat from the DUP using the same anti-Brexit rationale, it would further put pressure on the DUP, give additional credibility to a campaign to re-elect Naomie Long whilst also ensuring the key campaign theme remains attitudes to Brexit.

Neither party will agree to form an official pact with the republican party, yet that should not discourage Sinn Fein.

In a strategic sense, maximising the anti-Brexit vote and representation in this election is an over-riding priority for both nationalist parties, but particularly for Sinn Fein as the party most defined by its attitude towards Irish unity. Maintaining the momentum from March’s Assembly election will compel the republican leadership to think not just about the selfish party political objective at an individual constituency level in South Belfast, but of the broader impact upon nationalism and the anti-Brexit position of allowing a seat to fall to the DUP. In any event, the fact that the existing parliamentary constituencies are due to be revised ahead of the subsequent Westminster should give confidence to Sinn Fein that a tactical side-step now will not have longer term adverse electoral consequences.

Ironically, such a tactical move would free up party resources and personnel to concentrate in Belfast on maintaining the strong West Belfast showing from March (and the Brexit theme will help keep People Before Profit on the defensive there) whilst also putting additional support behind whoever the party decides to run in North Belfast.


  • Fear Éireannach

    The Tory government with a similar mandate?

  • Muiris

    As a pan nationalist ‘southie’ ( much more subtle than ‘Free Stater’). I feel that SF unilaterally standing down in Belfast South & East, will generate some goodwill from SDLP & Aliance supporters in North Belfast, as well as freeing up election workers for a winnable seat, can only help their cause there.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It is important that there is a high turnout for the Remain parties regardless of the Arrow’s Law effects, but rather than engaging in a blatantly obtuse anti-unionist pact parties on the Remain side need to challenge those on the Leave side not with Brexit fears, but protecting our economy, or institutions and our people from the change and unwanted damage presented by these actions.

    It’s fairly clear big U unionist parties are resorting tactlessly to pacts in order to preserve Britishness or Protestantism or just more appropriately at times their standing in the community but that is not going to keep their children from emigrating or stop the austerity that harms the Fermanagh Prod as much as the Fermanagh Catholic.

    To truely have a Pro-European, anti-Jingoism, Pro-open border, Anti-closed mind mentality, you need to pragmatically get some of your political opponents to question their loyalty to politicans relying on the lowest common denominator.

    These pacts are causing big U unionism to decline, especially that dodgy sectarian pact they did in East Belfast determined to protect a sectarian side, nothing else.

    Irish nationalism is not going to grow from kicking unionists, but it can be helped by big U unionists kicking themselves.

  • mac tire

    “Irish nationalism is not going to grow from kicking unionists…”

    I agree and have no interest in kicking them.

  • eamoncorbett

    Yes but if the Referendum in the South had been no then unionists would have walked away . As it stands unionists are now clinging to the principle of consent as the only saving grace in that agreement.

  • eamoncorbett

    Look at Scotland all the seats they have and they’ve been told to put up and shut up . The UK is now and will be a one party state and the only long term possible disruption to that scenario would be a fragmentation of the Tory party due to a soft Brexit. As for SF taking their seats , it’s not that long ago since the IRA sought to take all the seats out of that general area so I don’t think they’d be that welcome.

  • eamoncorbett

    TE, everyone has to be seen as a winner in this situation.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Ha! Typo james, apologies

  • Roger

    It’s a pretty big saving grace!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Sign him up quick for PBP ! They could do with such a man in West Belfast !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    It won’t gain any Middle Ground Votes in a FPTP Election but once the pact is maintained further past this Westie Election into Assembly and Local Council Elections then this is where it will maximise the Pro Union Vote by the Vote transfer system down all Unionist Candidates. This will mean that a small u who has giving his/her first preference vote to the UUP and past on their 2nd & 3rd preference votes onto Middle Ground Non Unionist Parties then because of this new Pro Union Political Pact Agreement transfers their other preference votes to other Unionist Candidates this is what I mean by Unionism making gains into the Middle Ground Vote !

  • eamoncorbett

    Agree 100 %

  • colin enniskillen

    You could get blood out of a stone easier than honesty from sinn fein

  • colin enniskillen

    How can the eu be accountable when billions of euros have gone missing don’t be daft

  • Jim M

    Did you even read my post? I said it was unaccountable…