Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: All eyes on DUP as Brexit draws closer

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster

Editor's Viewpoint

As European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he fears the UK is inching ever closer to leaving the EU with no deal, business leaders warn that this would be disastrous for Northern Ireland.

The CBI says that the UK has access to trade deals covering more than 70 countries, which represent a third of the global economy, because of membership of the EU and that these would be lost in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

At the same time, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium says the province's consumers would be hit first and hardest by a no-deal exit, with foodstuffs rising in price by up to 50% because of new tariffs.

These are chilling warnings coming just 864 hours before the Brexit deadline. The tick of the clock is becoming deafening, yet there is no indication of a resolution to the impasse between the UK and the EU.

Instead the waters at Westminster are becoming ever more muddy, with eight Labour and three Tory MPs leaving to form an independent group because of their disagreement at how their respective parties are dealing with the most important decision in a generation.

But ordinary people are wondering if the MPs are so cocooned in the Westminster bubble that they are using Brexit to score points rather than to create new opportunities for the future.

Do they hear what the public is saying, like those parents who, when quizzed in a survey, said they were concerned about what the future holds for Northern Ireland and whether their children will have to leave to fulfil their potential?

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The emergence of the new group of MPs again puts the focus on the DUP, which has been steadfast on its opposition to the backstop.

It is natural that a unionist party would be concerned at any perceived threat to the Union, but the DUP is engaged in something of a high-wire act in holding fast to this principle, which many believe is under no challenge, while turning its face against the advantages of the deal, which have been welcomed by the business and farming communities.

As ever, the situation in Northern Ireland is made worse by the absence of a devolved administration.

Brexit is being debated by megaphone, with predictable chaos and finger-pointing, but nothing approaching a consensus that would mitigate the worst effects of withdrawal in the event that the dire warnings become a reality.

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