Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Foster's call for 'third way' is conciliatory

Editor's Viewpoint

Following the historic events in Brussels yesterday when EU leaders sanctioned the Brexit deal with the UK, the outcome is still far from clear.

Arlene Foster's call for an alternative to the current withdrawal agreement and to a 'no-deal' shows the DUP leader in a more conciliatory light than her many critics would believe.

While stating again, on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme yesterday, that there were no circumstances in which her party would support the withdrawal agreement in its present form, Mrs Foster also said she believed it was time to look for "a third way, a different way, a better way".

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds takes up the same theme in today's Belfast Telegraph. He claims that the binding withdrawal agreement is fatally and fundamentally flawed, and we need the Government to continue to find a better deal, not least for Northern Ireland.

No one is yet suggesting how to square the circle over the complex issue of the Irish border that remains the sticking point in Mrs May's Brexit plan. Yet the fact the DUP leader clearly believes that getting a deal her party could live with is possible belies the image of intransigence which her political opponents would foist on her.

As Professor Jon Tonge also writes today, the DUP's annual conference on Saturday represented the purest possible "blow-back" of political unionism in the face of the economic pragmatism espoused by leading Northern Ireland business figures and organisations in the past 10 days.

The DUP leader also called for a return to power-sharing at Stormont, as well as talking about the need for a new "cultural" compact, and expressing "deep, deep sorrow" for the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

While the DUP remains intensely critical of the withdrawal agreement in its present form, it is evidently still keen to maintain the 'confidence and supply' agreement with the Tory Government - not least for the considerable benefits it offers away from the treacherous currents of Europe.

The curtain will almost certainly come down on March 29 next year, when the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union.

In the meantime, everyone must anticipate the cost which a lack of imagination could have when that historic morning finally dawns early next spring.

Belfast Telegraph

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