Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Brexit stakes getting higher for everyone

As the October 31 deadline for leaving the EU edges ever closer, the war of words over what leaving without a deal would mean to the UK and this region of it in particular intensifies. (Yui Mok/PA)
As the October 31 deadline for leaving the EU edges ever closer, the war of words over what leaving without a deal would mean to the UK and this region of it in particular intensifies. (Yui Mok/PA)

Editor's Viewpoint

As the October 31 deadline for leaving the EU edges ever closer, the war of words over what leaving without a deal would mean to the UK and this region of it in particular intensifies.

Critics of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's determination to leave with or without a deal have been given added ammunition with the publication of a leaked dossier which warns of food and medicine shortages in the event of a no-deal, the creation of a hard border in Ireland and possible mass civic disobedience involving blockades.

Supporters of the Prime Minister, including the DUP, dismiss such warnings, which in this part of the UK bring back memories of the UWC strike which brought down the first power-sharing administration here in 1974.

All these heated exchanges continue to add to the confusion over Brexit. Suggestions of 40,000 jobs at risk as well as shortages of vital supplies and delays at ports are all classified by Brexiteers as part of Project Fear, yet they come up with no convincing arguments to counter the official dossier.

Simultaneously, a poll taken in Northern Ireland shows the deep divisions created by Brexit. Nationalists and the middle ground of politics here say they would prefer a border down the Irish Sea - essentially closer alignment with the EU in the event of a second referendum.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says this is not reflective of people he meets - which given he represents a strong unionist seat is probably correct - but this does not undermine the validity of the poll.

But what has to be remembered amid all this heat and noise is that in the one poll that matters, the EU referendum, the UK as a whole voted to leave and the new Prime Minister has set the date on which he intends to carry out the wishes of the electorate.

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What the DUP should do in its pivotal role with government is ensure that whatever deal emerges has Northern Ireland's best interests at heart. No one seriously denies that Brexit will provide many challenges in the province, most obviously, but not exclusively, in the agri-food sector.

The party must realise that if the predictions of doom prove correct in this region, which voted strongly against Brexit, there will be electoral consequences, especially since a general election may well follow the UK leaving the EU.

The stakes for everyone in Northern Ireland in this political stand-off are very high.

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