Tuesday 22 October 2019

Editorial: 'We must not replace a milestone with a millstone'

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer (fifth right) meets representatives of Northern Ireland's business, farming, trade union, community and voluntary sectors at the House of Commons as they press for a Brexit deal. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer (fifth right) meets representatives of Northern Ireland's business, farming, trade union, community and voluntary sectors at the House of Commons as they press for a Brexit deal. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Editorial

Editorial

Hardened bluffers appreciate there comes a point when you have to go all in to get out; and so the Brexit stakes are at their highest today in Westminster.

But gamblers will also always play down the dangers. So small wonder there is a profound sense of foreboding over unfolding events in London.

To sacrifice so much that is substantial for the prospect of attaining something that may prove to be catastrophic is difficult to comprehend.

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That is why representatives from the North's business, farming, trade union, community and voluntary sectors have all descended on the Commons imploring political party leaders to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

With just 59 days to go, the chief executive of Retail Northern Ireland, Glyn Roberts, said: "It is not acceptable for parliament to continue to create uncertainty."

Even so, Downing Street has refused to declare which of the several Brexit amendments it could support in the series of crucial votes to be held today.

Theresa May appears to have placed all her chips on the prospect of Brussels giving ground on the backstop.

Brexit ultras are standing by their flimsy promises of plenty, which even in fantasy have only found a half-life.

Human experience tells us when the immoveable object meets the irresistible force, people get crushed.

After two years agonising over every detail, for the whole process to be reduced to a reckless game of Russian roulette is reprehensible.

Politics looks like it is failing the people. Some will argue the risk-takers and the risk- averse have always had to suffer each other. As US author Ambrose Bierce put it: "The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavour upon the business known as gambling."

The bitter truth about Brexit is that those who can least afford to lose stand to lose the most, while those responsible for the disaster should the UK crash out will be cushioned from its harsher consequences.

It is truly astonishing we could have come to such a pass, given how the City of London, main business organisations, trade unions and even main political parties all set out supporting Remain. Yet without the anchor of a common purpose, Brexit is drifting ominously close to the rocks.

Our Government is prepared to see the Brexit deal reopened only if the UK stays in a customs union or agrees to special measures for the North to avoid a hard Border.

We have little choice. The Good Friday Agreement was a milestone in achieving peace on these islands. History will judge harshly those who would seek to replace it with the millstone a no-deal Brexit would be.

Irish Independent

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