The DUP and unionists are missing the opportunities to frame various narratives.
I feel they should as a matter of urgency:
1. Ask the UK government for a British Isles languages act to include Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic & Scots/Ulster-Scots.
2. Seek more East-West institutions between the UK and Ireland and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain (ie a Scots language board between NI and Scotland).
3. A paper on the current benefits of the Union specifically for Northern Ireland and a Westminster paper on the Union regarding the whole UK along with recommendations on how to enhance and strengthen the Union.
4. A much needed Brexit document on their vision for Northern Ireland to drive the agenda rather than letting Brussels, Dublin, Sinn Fein and indeed Westminster to dictate.
As I predicted in an opinion piece before the referendum — the Common Travel Area will be retained and all issues retain to goods and freight.
The Irish Revenue Commissioner has alluded to a smart border where only around 5% of freight would be checked at locations away from the border (similar to the Smart Borders 2.0 report by customs experts Dr Lars Karlsson, who told Westminister last week that a frictionless border IS possible).
Whilst there is still some way to go it looks like the UK government is making a dog’s dinner of the Brexit talks. The recently leaked EU memo regarding the “backstop” states that “such a selective, and lean version of the internal market is not on offer for the UK as a whole”.
The Leave Alliance first posited their Flexcit plan over at eureferendum.com during the Brexit campaign. This entailed the UK joining EFTA/EEA for a 5 to 10 year transition phase.
The benefits to this being that it is achievable quickly, it is outside the Common Agricultural Policy, Common Fisheries Policy, Common Foreign and Security Policy, Economic and Monetary Union, is not subject to the European Court of Justice and allows an Independent Trade Policy.
EFTA countries only implement between 15-20% of EU laws (mostly to do with the single market).
None of the EFTA states are in the EU customs union.
If NI were going to end up with anything like the proposed “backstop” (applying to NI only and not the UK as a whole), then the DUP should work to ensure it is EFTA”esque”.
Any backstop should retain full sovereignty to the NI Assembly and Westminster aka EFTA & transform Belfast/NI’s FinTech hub into a financial hub for British firms looking for a base in the single market.
UK companies could locate “EU” bases in Belfast. There is at least the possibility in these circumstances that NI could be a hub for UK and EU companies with dual access to the UK and EU markets if it took hold of the Irish border issue from the Dublin, Brussels, Sinn Fein and Westminster.
5. The opportunity to address issues with devolution as part of the Brexit negotiations.
The DUP should negotiate changes to the rules on formation of the Executive so that any party refusing to nominate is automatically placed into opposition. They should seek to have devolution, the assembly and other arrangements made permanent structures on the island even in the event of a border poll in favour of a united Ireland.
Former Ukip candidate for Mid Ulster, Coagh, Co Tyrone