Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Open boss is right to have fears over Brexit

Martin Slumbers
Martin Slumbers

Editor's Viewpoint

The comments by Martin Slumbers, head of British golf's governing body, that he would not have wanted Portrush to host this year's prestigious Open championship had he known Brexit was going to happen, is one of the most astonishing interventions in the ongoing debate about the UK leaving the EU.

But on closer examination it is clear that like every other business - the Open is big business masquerading as a sporting event - the uncertainty over Brexit is causing the organisers a logistical headache. What will happen if there is a no-deal is the big worry. How will all the paraphernalia which accompanies the golf be brought to the course - through Dublin or Belfast - and what effect would a hard border have?

No one can blame Mr Slumbers for his concerns. They are shared by many and the continuing political shambles at Westminster does little to clarify the situation.

Yet again the Government has warned that a no-deal Brexit would hit Northern Ireland first and hardest and last longest, but that is nothing new. What everyone wants to know is, how can we mitigate the effects of Brexit?

A no-deal is still a real possibility as it seems clear that the EU is not for changing the alternative deal the Prime Minister signed late last year and which Parliament has already rejected by a record margin.

Both Mrs May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are desperately trying to keep their fragmenting parties together and the Prime Minister has offered MPs a chance to vote on extending the withdrawal date past March 29. But her insistence that it should only be for a couple of months makes this a near meaningless gesture, as the obstinacy of both the UK and EU over possible terms of withdrawal demand that a longer period of negotiation is required, to allow common sense to filter into the debate - or else MPs will have to grab the March 29 nettle.

The meaningful vote should be for a meaningful delay.

The crucial votes in a fortnight's time and just 17 days before the withdrawal deadline will have far-reaching consequences and unless there is a totally unexpected breakthrough will serve as an example of how not to conduct negotiations which have the national interest at their heart.

In the meantime, Mr Slumbers will have to continue devising contingency plans to ensure the Portrush tournament runs smoothly. Pity he was not in charge of Brexit.

Belfast Telegraph

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