In July 2008 former UUP leader Reg Empey and British Conservative leader David Cameron revealed that a formal working group had been set up to study a possible merger of the UUP into the British Conservatives.
Following the electoral pact announcement made in November 2008, the UUP will not merge yet with the Tories although agreed candidates will be jointly selected with the Conservatives for every election.
The cooperation agreement between the two parties will allow the British Conservatives to field candidates in Northern Ireland through the UUP, while the Ulster Unionists will have access to larger resources and finance through the British Conservative Party.
The new Unionist-Tory alliance was publicly inaugurated as Conservative leader David Cameron addressed the UUP annual conference in Belfast on 6 December 2008 and told his vision of Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.
"For too long Northern Ireland has been outside of the mainstream of politics in the UK. This new political force will help change that, and allow everyone in Northern Ireland to participate fully in political life both in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom," told the British Tory leader.
In his speech at the UUP conference, Unionist leader Reg Empey also welcomed "An Ulster Unionist-Conservative relationship which shifts Northern Ireland from the ledge of the Union to the very heart of the United Kingdom."
The UUP-Conservatives alliance was played down by rival Unionist party DUP, which is currently in government at Northern Ireland's devolved Assembly.
A number of senior members of the UUP such as Westmister MP Sylvia Hermon or Lord Ken Maginnis were cautious about the agreement with the Tories. Ulster political analysts point out that the UUP is still maintaining its own party identity due to internal opposition to a full merger of the two parties.
Fine Gael to strengthen relationship with British Conservatives
Irish republican party Fine Gael will forge stronger links with the British Conservative Party on issues such as taxation and public spending policies.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny met Tory leader David Cameron in London last November 2008 to discuss about common issues between the two parties.
Mr Kenny told relations with the British Conservatives would be "stronger than for years" and announced that Fine Gael will send some of their policy advisers to England to study the policies of the Conservative Party.