Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Stakes are too high for political games

Editor's Viewpoint

As the clock ticks steadily towards March 29, with no discernible agreement within the UK so far as to what people want, let alone with the European Union negotiators, the resultant uncertainty is unavoidable.

The Prime Minister Mrs May is now shuttling virtually non-stop between Brussels, London, Dublin and Belfast in her attempt to get an agreed deal through the Westminster Parliament, but the prospect for a no-deal exit is increasing.

People from all backgrounds are concentrating as never before on this chilling possibility, and even though many Brexiteers dismiss the gloomy forecasts as scaremongering, the reality is that the many experts predicting chaos cannot all be wrong.

In today's paper we publish the latest alarming examples of the effect this continuing confusion is having on business and policing. Experts from the law enforcement agencies are warning that a no-deal Brexit could lock them out of systems for exchanging data with Europe which would make their work harder, and lead to a situation that could be exploited by criminals.

We also report that uncertainty about the outcome of Brexit is harming investment confidence and business expansion here, because people are holding back until they see what happens.

While there can be no denying the magnitude of the task facing Mrs May in trying to find a consensus in the Commons, the Government must not forget its considerable obligations to people on the ground in Northern Ireland and elsewhere who are trying to plan for life post-Brexit.

There may be a temptation for ministers to hold out until the eleventh hour before a deal is reached - and the Prime Minister is being accused by some people of running down the clock - but there may be a huge price to be paid.

There were signals emerging yesterday that a meaningful vote may not now happen until the end of the month. That may be so, but it is imperative for politicians of all hues to set aside party political interests and to work for the common good.

So far there are few signs of this, apart from the formation of small informal cross-party groups which so far seem to have limited success.

Political brinkmanship may seem attractive to those directly involved, but the stakes this time are incredibly high, and if it all goes wrong, it is the ordinary people who will suffer most.

Belfast Telegraph

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