Editor's Viewpoint: Northern Ireland can benefit from Brexit, but only if we're flexible
The arguments throughout these islands about the Brexit plan put forward by the Government makes it difficult for many to see the wood for the trees.
There have been many negative reactions to the proposed plan, including ministerial resignations, a possible leadership contest and a deep scepticism on the part of the DUP, which so far has played a crucial role in keeping the Tories in office.
But it also remains important to consider potential gains for Northern Ireland that the deal may offer. The business community has responded positively, making strong and eloquent arguments for ‘the best of both worlds’, where Northern Ireland remains in Europe with access to EU and UK markets.
Mrs May is a resilient Prime Minister who intends to fight on for her plan. She has shown determination and has underlined that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK.
For some unionists, this is not enough to placate their concerns — and the rhetoric from Dublin has only served to heighten anxieties.
However, unionists must pause to consider the options open to them. When compared with what was feared even six months ago, the disastrous outcome some predicted, of a hard border — in effect some antiquated frontier, which would prove unworkable in any case — the reality offered now is much less fearsome. The alternative would be an irritant for everybody and would be disastrous for support for the union.
Northern Ireland has benefited from being at the centre of the Brexit proposals .The last two years have shown the world that Northern Ireland is a distinctive place. Such intense scrutiny is rarely comfortable for any region or nation and we here have felt by turns overlooked, undervalued, exploited and misunderstood. Nonetheless, it has been made very clear that this small corner of the world is not a simple proposition for politicians in London, Dublin or Brussels. We are not just a problem to be solved.
A wise approach now would be to show flexibility, which is not ‘a sign of weakness’, confusion or division but is in fact a modern and contemporary politics, with an eye on the future. That should become part of who we are.
The objective is a Northern Ireland economically successful, settled, harmonious and working for all its people.
That is the best way to deal with Europe and that is the way to strengthen the union.