Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: May's visit a chance to voice Brexit concerns

Editor's Viewpoint

Given the importance that the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic holds in Brexit negotiations, it is right that Prime Minister Theresa May should spend two days here finding out the views of those who cross it every day.

She is hearing from those whose businesses depend on keeping it as open as possible.

They will be encouraged by Mrs May's assertion today during a Belfast speech that the idea of a hard border is almost inconceivable. She is correct in stating such an outcome would not be welcomed by anyone - and would be bad for both parts of this island.

Her visit to Northern Ireland is important from another aspect. In the 2016 referendum, the province rejected the idea of leaving the EU.

However, because there is no nationalist presence at Westminster due to Sinn Fein's abstentionist policy, she has not heard directly about the anti-Brexit concerns people have here.

It is clear from her speech that she is keen to reassure unionists, and the DUP on whom she depends to stay in power, that she is committed to ensuring Brexit will not result in any diminution of Northern Ireland's constitutional position within the UK.

She is hardly delighted that it looks like the DUP support almost certainly will be reduced by one when Parliament resumes in September.

Ian Paisley's act of contrition in the Commons yesterday is unlikely to prevent him being suspended for 30 sitting days from September 4.

The Prime Minister remains hostage to so many elements that she must sometimes wonder if the game is worth the candle. Her Chequers compromise has come under fire from Brexiteers who feel she has sold them out and even from prominent supporters who wonder if it is feasible.

She is also hamstrung on the Irish border question as the DUP will not countenance any proposal that has the potential to cause fissures in the UK.

But even though the sands of time have almost run out, Mrs May is full of aspirations but scant on detail on how that might be achieved.

Referencing a White Paper that can barely command a majority in Parliament is as good as it gets. The real test is the EU response to it.

She also expressed the hope of a return to devolution but it remains a neglected issue at a time when the province faces possibly the greatest challenge in its history. It would not be tolerated elsewhere nor would our stay-away politicians.

Belfast Telegraph

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