There is no going back on Brexit, for the UK or for NI

Morning View

Morning View

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Arlene Foster struck the right balance between diplomacy and bluntness on Saturday when she referred to Dublin’s response to the Brexit vote.

The first minister stressed that the DUP wanted good relations with the Republic, and she said such cross border relations were as good as they had been.

But she also pleaded with Irish officials not to talk down the Northern Ireland economy in the aftermath of Brexit.

There has been much alarm in Dublin since the British electorate voted on June 23 to quit the European Union.

The anxiety has been understandable for a number of reasons. The Republic does very large amounts of trade with the UK, its nearest neighbour.

The implications for the land border are complicated, and the exact nature of the coming border is as yet unknowable.Dublin also has lost a like-minded voice at the EU.

Furthermore, the Republic has a deep attachment to Europe, as a small nation that made a big split from the UK that naturally feels the need to be part of a larger whole.

But while concerns are understandable, the UK as a whole has voted narrowly but decisively for Brexit, and Theresa May – despite having backed Remain in the referendum – made clear it will happen the day she entered Downing Street.

Northern Ireland is part of the UK, so while it will almost certainly be possible to strike agreements with the EU on matters that are of specific relevance to NI post Brexit, it will not be in any way acceptable if Brexit is not applied here.

A special dispensation in which the Province is allowed to remain in the single market while the rest of the UK quits it is also unthinkable, because the arrangement would be so separate, and have such far reaching consequences, that it would do much damage to our place within the Union.

There is much to discuss with Dublin in a working spirit, but within the context of a Brexit commitment that should be irreversible.