Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: MP's Brexit warning a reality check for all

Independent North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon is not a politician given to hyperbolic statements. So when she says that the creation of a hard border with the Republic post-Brexit would lead to a return of violence, it is a comment worth heeding.

The wife of a former Chief Constable, she is well aware of the dangers of living in the shadow of the gunmen and bombers. She may represent the most affluent constituency in Northern Ireland but that does not mean she is divorced from the reality of how divided this society really is.

As an independent, Lady Hermon is not bound by any party dogma, and as an experienced politician is well capable of weighing up the pros and cons of arguments, even those as emotional as Brexit and its potential impact.

As a debate on the issue began in the House of Commons yesterday, Lady Hermon's views were echoed to a degree by such heavy hitters as Ken Clarke and Nicky Morgan, who urged the Government to either remain in the customs union or replicate the existing arrangements in the divorce proceedings from the EU.

However, Labour's Kate Hoey, who was born in Northern Ireland, accused the EU of using the border as a bargaining chip when it didn't need to.

The problem with Brexit is that it is a much more complex issue than anyone outside of the most informed political circles ever imagined.

Leaving the EU is not straightforward and one of the most intractable problems to date is how to create the frictionless border that both the EU and UK say they want.

Writing in this newspaper today, David Lidington, Minister for the Cabinet Office, says all the right things - how the Government is committed to upholding the ethos of the Good Friday Agreement, wants a special relationship with the EU after it leaves, and will do everything possible to stop any physical border being erected on the island.

But the commitment that Northern Ireland remains an undiminished part of the UK considerably narrows the options for discussion with the EU over the border.

The rhetoric is reassuring but, as ever, hard facts are elusive.

Mr Lidington calls for a restoration of devolution here, but the mood music between the parties was very discordant yesterday with the tired old blame game making a reappearance.

Solving Brexit seems an easier puzzle than getting the local parties back into a power-sharing administration.

Belfast Telegraph

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