Belfast Telegraph

Brexit bungled as we stare from sidelines

Editor's Viewpoint

Everyone agrees that Brexit represents the greatest challenge to the UK and Irish economies in generations. As such, it would be expected that structured game plans would be in place to progress negotiations on the issues of how to deal with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the divorce bill payable by the UK, and what the final relationships between the UK and the EU will look like.

Unfortunately, that is far from what we have got. The question of the border has aroused ancient tribal passions and the language between and by the Irish Government and the DUP has become increasingly hostile.

There are even suggestions of frost between Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster after the PM's humiliating climbdown earlier this week. Relationships across the border are always tense and loose words can do enormous damage.

Of course, the Irish and British Governments and the DUP all have their own priorities, but history tells us that is always the case in Anglo-Irish relations. The way differences are fudged is through clever use of language, which offers each side room for manoeuvre, and that is the hope in solving this current impasse. After all, if the DUP and Sinn Fein could find enough common ground to allow them to form a devolved administration at Stormont for 10 years, it should not be beyond the wit of the various sides to reach a consensus on the border.

However, the admission by David Davis that no impact assessment has been made on the effect of Brexit on various sectors of the economy underlines the chaotic nature of the UK Government's response to the surprise referendum result. It does not augur well for the vital trade talks, whenever they take place.

Another casualty of the current Brexit controversy is politics in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein appears to have adopted a policy of sitting on the sidelines of the debate - even though it represents the majority view on the issue - and of course has called a halt to further attempts to resurrect devolution.

The lack of a functioning administration at Stormont has left Northern Ireland in a perilous state, with a health service on the point of crumbling, some schools cutting teaching hours, infrastructure projects on hold. We are trying to sell the province as a place to invest and to visit, but keep making the wrong headlines to inspire confidence.

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