Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Brexit risks turning crisis to catastrophe

Editor's Viewpoint

It is now 100 days until the UK is due to leave the European Union and, two years after the nation voted to take this action we are no closer to discovering what shape that divorce will take.

However, the portents are not encouraging. With Prime Minister Theresa May being continually humiliated both by her own party and by the EU over her exit deal and the Tories and Labour with no consensus on an alternative, the once unthinkable prospect of a no-deal exit is moving from a remote possibility to a probability.

Certainly the business community, which in Northern Ireland sees the Mrs May deal as an option affording it the ability to deal both with the EU and the wider global community, is bracing itself for what once seemed the Doomsday option.

The Brexit debate locally has been remarkable in one way - political unionism and corporate unionism were, if not at loggerheads, singing from very different hymn sheets.

Business can point out the burgeoning trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic as one imperative for keeping cross-border business going as usual. Last year, exports to the other regions of the UK from Northern Ireland fell by 20% while exports to the Republic rose by 16%.

Such statistics indicate the importance of cross border trade and it should be incumbent on all the political parties here to make every effort to avoid a no-deal Brexit and to mitigate the harm that leaving the EU will do to the local economy.

Given the importance of trade with the UK including Northern Ireland to the Republic's economy, the Irish government could give the beleaguered Mrs May some help by persuading the other EU countries to find some strong assurances that they are not totally bent on making the UK's exit as painful as possible.

A no-deal Brexit will do enormous harm to the Republic's economy and it is not in its interest to see the whole island impoverished.

The options facing the UK - going with the Prime Minister's discredited deal, crashing out with no deal, withdrawing the Article 50 declaration which triggered the exit process, holding a second referendum to allow for more time for fresh negotiations or staying in the EU, all have their supporters, but most lack a realistic chance of being accepted by Westminster.

By default we could be turning a political crisis into an economic catastrophe.

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