Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Time for cool heads over May Brexit plan

Editor's Viewpoint

Prime Minister Theresa May said after a marathon Cabinet meeting that ended two hours later than scheduled with her ministers backing the draft Brexit agreement that she believes with her head and her heart that this is a decision which is in the best interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.

Given that she is probably the only politician who has read the entire 500-plus page document, she is at this moment in the best position to judge its merits.

However, that has not prevented others who have not even glimpsed it from denouncing its contents and vowing to vote against it when it comes before the House of Commons next month.

There have been leaks on some of the contents, and the idea that Northern Ireland will be treated differently in the transition period from the rest of the UK has unnerved unionists and led to the DUP talking up its opposition to the draft agreement.

The situation has not been helped by arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg declaring that the deal would mean Dublin running Northern Ireland affairs. That may be an enticing soundbite to rally opposition to the Prime Minister, but given that unionists see everything through the prism of their connection to the rest of the UK, it is a dangerous idea to float.

The DUP during the Brexit negotiations has been strong on what it doesn't want, but like many Brexiteers less clear on what it does want, apart from some clean break from the EU while still agreeing a valuable trade deal with those other 27 countries - a position that is not negotiable.

It is always a mistake for politicians to publicly draw up red lines on any negotiation. Local politicians should know that better than anyone given the collapse of devolved government here.

Admittedly, some of the comments which have wafted across the border from Dublin during the negotiations have added to the toxicity of Brexit, but now is the time for all sides to adopt a mature, cool approach to a serious constitutional dilemma and see if the deal can be tailored into an opportunity rather than one to be feared. Might the right approach not strengthen the Union rather than weaken it.

The ultimate aim must always be to get the best possible deal for Northern Ireland and it would be encouraging for the various sectors of the economy here to voice their views clearly, no matter what their political loyalties.

Belfast Telegraph

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