The Pro-Remain Coalition failing with have consequences on June 8th.

The short lived attempt to build a Pro-Remain coalition of sorts has now ended with the Greens pulling the plug and the failure of the other parties to agree on independent candidates.

Alliance who were out of the traps early opposing the pact delivered an unusually strong criticism towards the Green Party over even entertaining such a prospect. 

Initial Thoughts

I was a supporter of some arrangement that brought together Pro-Remain forces in some shape or form. This would have involved compromises on all sides that would have delivered some short term electoral pain for all of the parties involved.

Parties needed to see that it was unrealistic to expect a sitting MP to step aside and it was not realistic to expect a party where they had previously held the seat to stand aside there too. In retrospect, there should have been a greater clarity for the role that the Greens were going to play with a potential compromise for them as the standard bearers for the Remain forces in somewhere like North Belfast.

In constituencies such as North Down, it was important to send a clear signal that the Pro-Remain, Lady Sylvia Hermon would not be opposed under any circumstances.

Ultimately this was a bridge too far for the Green Party as absentionism and Alasdair McDonnell continuing as the MP proved too difficult for the party. They deserve credit for engaging in the process, but expecting the SDLP to drop a sitting MP was incredibly unrealistic.

For me, it is a real shame that the idea of independent candidates in places like North Belfast didn’t get up and running. This could have brought some new faces into politics and broadened the Westminster team that Northern Ireland sends to the House of Commons.

I think that Agnew, Eastwood and O’Neill deserve some credit for trying to get some form of arrangement going, sure it has failed, but to fail at something, you first have to try. Standing on the sidelines just watching events unfold in front of you is no strategy. Nor does it seem wise to view these arrangements as a zero sum game, where everybody has to viewed with suspicious motives or ill intent. Party leaders will try and advance their aims, but politics is ultimately about compromise and attempting to find common ways forward.


Actions have consequences and in a First Past The Post system, this will take seats that could have been competitive races and place them in the safe column.


North Belfast will stay with Nigel Dodds, who will be easily returned as the local MP. You can also take a constituency such as East Derry/Londonderry out of the competitive column. Likewise for Upper Bann.

Fermanagh/South Tyrone is more uncertain too. I have heard a strand of thought that thinks Tom Elliott is a goner off the back of the Assembly Election results, however, I am not sure that as a incumbent MP, he cannot survive and with a few votes in it, you cannot be complacent. This is the same story in East Belfast as Gavin Robinson tries to win a second term as an MP.

Now, South Belfast is incredibly vulnerable and with vote splits on the centre left side, it is an extremely attractive punt for the DUP, who will own a huge section of the Leave vote in the constituency. If there is some form of Unionist unity, this constituency will be an almost certain gain for that candidate.

This could have made a number of contests a real fight, in an election where the Prime Minister declared this vote an important one about Brexit.

Disunity is death in politics and the Pro-Remain side might learn this the hard way as the votes are counted on June 9th.









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  • Old Mortality

    Are you a mathematician? If so I’ll treat you with more respect in future. Is Kevin Breslin by any chance a nom de plume for a candidate in FST in the recent Assembly election who has a similar academic background?

  • Brendan Heading

    Without meaning to be unduly critical, this article underscores, for me, the problems with the pact. The supporters of the pact are concerned, almost exclusively, with what the rollcall of MPs will be and this is borne out in the conclusion section of the article here.

    The reality is that the likely approach of the British government will be unchanged irrespective of whether there are 18 brexit MPs or 18 Remain MPs. We’ve been told by remain supporters that we need to send a strong message – I’m all for messages, but to whom ? Will they listen ? And to what cost ? These questions were never seriously addressed by proponents of the pact.

    This is going to get done by the British and Irish governments and by the EU. It would be nice if we had an Executive to work alongside them, but since we don’t, we’re at the mercy of the protective attitudes of the two governments. No amount of shouting from the NI benches will change what they do – as Unionists learned when they tried and failed to stop the Anglo Irish Agreement with 15 by-elections in 1986.

  • Obelisk

    Still a few years away from that sadly…what do we do in the meantime?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The DUP have the strategic vision of a slater.

  • Gaygael

    Sf policy on reproductive health care is better than the sdlp’s but still it does not #trustwomen

    In every circumstance every time, I trust women to make the best decisions for themselves. The great thing is most people agree with me and the hyperbolic nonsense that you spout further drives people from your cause. Change is coming. Look down south. ?

    That you wish to portray it as simplisticly emotive ‘ending lives’ is harmful ignorance.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Problem is that since the Brexit vote, nationalist Remainer politicians have taken their own version of what the Remain vote meant and have mixed it up with their own agendas, e.g. seeking to set up ad hoc all-Ireland structures to deal with Brexit and barracking unionists for not agreeing, favouring new barriers at the Irish Sea over any at the actual border, falsely claiming Brexit breaches the GFA etc. They’ve basically nationalistified (made up word) Remain in NI. Fine for them but they can’t then play the issue once again as if that hasn’t happened. Yet again a perfectly good cause is tarnished by being attached to another unwarranted pushing of the old pan-Irish stuff.

  • Mach1965

    You’re right OM, London did indeed overwhelmingly vote remain but I think he meant Westminster rather than London.

  • runnymede

    Coalitions of losers rarely prosper…Remainers are a shambles.

  • Ciarán

    Sounds like a great argument for abstentionism to me

  • Fear Éireannach

    Again the ridiculous legal loophole argument. If SF was exploiting a legal loophole you would not accept this and no rational person accepts using the inadequate drafting of the GFA as an excuse to ignore the principles on which it was based. Nationalists did not sign up to the British government being allowed ramp checkpoints and border harassment at the behest of the DUP and declare this in keeping with the agreement.

  • Brendan Heading

    There are things decided in parliament that can be influenced by local MPs. Brexit is not one of them.

  • eireanne3

    had you two just passed your A levels from secondary school or was either or both a mature student?

  • Brendan Heading

    I think the Greens had the best of intentions but were naive about what they were getting themselves into.

    The SDLP were also naive, but surprisingly so as the leader has some experience of how calling for party co-operation during elections can go badly wrong.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I did my A levels in 1988, why?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The institutions of the GFA are there to deal with such problems that arise. The court was clear the GFA did not and was never intended to limit the ability of either state to leave the EU.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The agreement is that we have a border poll when there’s evidence the people of NI might want a change. There is no such evidence.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m afraid that’s true.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You’re dead right – if Remain-voting politicians in NI want to influence how Brexit is implemented there, the best thing is to get back into the Executive. It has a say and a role. Parties shouting from the sidelines don’t.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “The Demands for a Border Poll”

  • T.E.Lawrence

    At least your honest CoC that’s what it is all about !

  • Deeman

    The UK will be the losers in two years, with us folk front and centre of the economic pain and misery.

  • Deeman

    I agree. Imagine a joint paper signed by all the main parties in NI, demanding some sort of special status, or 10 principles due to the unique nature of our constitutional mess here.

  • John Spence

    All the unionist MPs accept the Brexit vote outcome, as is expected of a unionist democrat. If you say that former Remainers like Hermon shouldn’t be opposed by an anti-Brexit axis, you have to include Danny Kinahan as well.

    However it fails to understand how most unionists, irrespective of how they voted, feel, namely that a democratic decision was made, and that it should be accepted.

    I suppose not opposing Hermon could be used to avoid this being called a (by nationalists own definition), a sectarian pact, because we know that nationalists would never enter a “sectarian” pact.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Only Breslin that stood in the Assembly election was the Green Party’s Jennifer Breslin back in 2016… think she studies Archeology or something.

    We’re not related.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ohh, you’ve got me!

  • Fear Éireannach

    The inability of the GFA to do this simply reflects inadequate drafting not intention. The institutions of the GFA cannot deal with this problem because the British government are not interested in consensus but are pursing a unilateral agenda.
    If the British government renege on the GFA in this way then the whole deal is toast.

  • right_side_of_left

    I couldn’t tell you that because it would be a hugely significant result. Wouldn’t bet the house on it though and don’t see why nationalism should feel the need to at this stage. Demographics being what they are I’d prefer to see a unionist pact for what it is, pain relief, not a cure. This is when nationalism needs to look ahead a generation and rise above it.

  • right_side_of_left

    I think it was always doomed to fail if the pre-conditions were pro-choice candidates replacing existing pro-life MPs and SF taking their seats. His statement was clear after the event but begs the questions as to why he was promoting a pact in the first place when neither scenario was likely to be on the table.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There is no evidence they are intending to renege though.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Not Special Status though – as I think you might then need another referendum in NI to approve it. And we should be very careful not to use Brexit as a pretext to mess with NI’s constitutional status, as agreed in the GFA.

  • Fear Éireannach

    This is not a different constitutional status, merely a different set of customs regulations and product standards. The devolved government already varies certain taxes and standards so no referendum required.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    If only that then fine as long as it’s not just an exercise in moving the border somewhere else.

  • Fear Éireannach

    People want economic Irish unity, the flegs and stuff can await further agreement. It is either this or an immediate and insistent demand for a full UI to achieve this.

  • Fear Éireannach

    no need for laws #trustpeople

  • Gaygael

    In an exceptional FPTP election called specifically for Brexit, we had a duty to explore the idea. We did.

  • Gaygael

    I want it decriminalised too. It should be a health matter between a woman and her relevant health professional.

    Glad to see your support. It chimes with the opinion of the majority of the public.