Belfast Telegraph

Quit scaremongering over UK's exit from EU

Editor's Viewpoint

It is natural that some politicians opposed to the UK leaving the EU engage in sabre rattling from time to time. We have had experience of that in Northern Ireland, with some people saying that it could hasten the day of a united Ireland.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister in Scotland, has been until now the cheerleader for those who say Brexit could see the UK disintegrate.

But now the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has added his voice to this clamour suggesting that his country, Scotland and possibly Northern Ireland could all secede from the UK.

Of course, this is simply hot air. He is just raising the temperature to concentrate the mind of Theresa May at Westminster to keep the regions in mind when the Brexit negotiations begin.

But such threats of breaking up the UK are dangerous taken in the context of Northern Ireland. While rational minds will accept that this is just a politician jockeying for position in an argument, here, where the border has been a bogey issue in politics for almost as long as Northern Ireland has existed, threats of leaving the UK can be taken literally by some extremists.

But even they should take heed of the poll carried on BBC last night which showed that eight out of 10 voters here in any border poll would not be influenced by the outcome of the EU referendum.

And even if such a poll was held - as Sinn Fein wants - some 63% would still vote to remain in the UK. Only 22% would support an united Ireland. With the consent principle in place, the prospect of an united Ireland appears to grow more distant by the year.

We can agree with Mr Jones that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales must have a direct input into any forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

The regions have sad experience of Westminster putting its own interests before the outlying areas of the UK, and what will be appealing to English voters may well not suit those living in the Celtic fringes.

So it is encouraging to hear First Minister Arlene Foster, who supports Brexit even if Northern Ireland voted against it, express her confidence that the province's voice will be heard in any Brexit talks. She underlined that point to Brexit minister David Davis when he came to Stormont last week.

Mr Jones should stop scaremongering and begin discussions with his regional colleagues on the issues that matter to all of them.

Belfast Telegraph


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