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Suzanne Breen: Leave supporters just don't believe the scare stories

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. (PA/Press Association Images)
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. (PA/Press Association Images)
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Standing in the room in Finchley where Margaret Thatcher was selected as a Westminster candidate 61 years ago, Arlene Foster left the Tories in no doubt about her party's main political priority.

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If it comes to a choice between Brexit and the Union, the latter wins hands down. "The protection and promotion of the Union of the United Kingdom is more important than any other political aspiration or cause which we may be focused on at a particular time," she said last night.

The DUP leader told the Conservative Finchley Association that 2021 marked the centenary of Northern Ireland's creation.

"We have come through a terrorist campaign aimed at taking Northern Ireland and its people out of the Union, at any cost. We will never be shy about identifying a threat to the Union," she added. Former Labour leader Gordon Brown evidently thinks that Brexit poses a far greater risk to the Union than the IRA ever did.

In a speech earlier yesterday, he said it was in more danger than at any time in 300 years.

The "inward-looking, isolationist and dogmatic approach" and narrow nationalism of Brexiteers was a recruiting sergeant for the SNP, he said. Unlike the current Labour leader, Mr Brown is a solid supporter of the Union. Yet his words will likely fall on deaf ears.

A YouGov poll of Tory members earlier this month found that 63% would be prepared to accept Scottish independence to secure Brexit, whilst 59% said the same about a united Ireland.

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The problem for Mr Brown and others voicing grave concerns is that there have been so many Brexit scare stories on a range of fronts, that Leave supporters either don't believe the warnings or else have given up caring.

Mrs Foster will be centre stage today at Westminster as a speaker at a Policy Exchange event, 'The Irish Backstop: What do we want from the next Prime Minister?'

The DUP leader will set out her expectations of the next occupant of Number Ten. Dependant on DUP MPs' votes to form a government, Boris Johnson will likely nod in agreement with her words.

But the DUP knows its history well enough not to take at face value the promises of even the most sympathetic Tories.

Northern Ireland being "as British as Finchley" didn't stop Mrs Thatcher signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

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