Article 50 should be extended while preparing for no deal and direct rule

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The Ulster Unionist Party yesterday made two sensible proposals.

The first proposal is to extend Article 50. This would greatly upset many supporters of Brexit, who want the UK out as planned on March 29.

But there is a very real chance that Brexit will not happen at all, and a delay in Article 50 gives crucial extra breathing time at a time of near national crisis.

The European Union says that all member states must have elected members of its parliament by July 2.

It would be logical therefore to extend Article 50 to July 1, which experts say should be easily attainable and a possibility which senior EU politicians have already conceded.

Such an extension would clearly not radically alter the current impasse but would give both the United Kingdom and the European Union an extra three months to prepare for a possible exit on World Trade Organisation terms.

This would be a managed exit, or as Dr Graham Gudgin described it on these pages last week, a departure based on a number of smaller deals. Almost no-one would choose such a departure as their preferred method of exit, but the EU seems to be showing itself to be intransigent on the backstop, yesterday showing apparent solidarity with Leo Varadkar.

The second UUP suggestion is that the government introduce direct rule in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Direct rule should in fact have been introduced two years ago, after Sinn Fein decided to bring down Stormont.

Since that vandalism, the government has advertised its fear of nationalist criticism by allowing a political limbo, in which civil servants take decisions, to become a medium term way of running Northern Ireland.

This simply cannot happen in the event of ‘no deal’.

There is a very real risk however that something akin to the opposite will happen if a managed ‘no deal’ Brexit happens: that London in a panic suddenly greatly increases Dublin’s input into the governance of NI.