The Letwin amendment briefly stopped the Boris Johnson deal juggernaut over the weekend, giving us time to take stock before it picks up speed again during the week.
It’s now time to think of solid and positive changes that we can make irrespective of how events eventually unfold.
The cost of getting even to this point has been high in terms of division.
In recent letters and opinion pieces we have seen reflections on the many errors of the DUP, the growing insularity of middle England and an odd statement from the UFU President Ivor Ferguson (‘Criticism of our Brexit position was unjust,’ October 19) in which he points out, unashamedly, that his only goal has been to secure the best possible Brexit deal for agriculture.
Naturally that’s the job of a union, but mature thinkers also look at the bigger picture, and at wider responsibilities.
If mainland taxpayers, over many decades, had concentrated only on the best possible deal for themselves, Mr Ferguson might find himself in markedly different circumstances today.
What can we start to do now, as the Brexit maelstrom continues, to pull things back together?
I have always thought that growing trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is a key way to strengthen the ties that bind us.
We will still probably end up with Johnson’s deal and with the economic border down the Irish Sea that it involves, but we can cope with it if we prepare.
One way might be to establish a new UK Department of State, with a Secretary of State attending Cabinet, responsible for encouraging internal UK trade, focusing on exchanges at the level of the nations and regions. Some will say that there are already various bodies with that aim, but that entirely misses the point.
A new ministry could dramatically focus attention, prioritise targets, develop plans. We could say, for example, that we intend to see trade between NI and GB increase at least 50% faster than that between NI and the Republic. We tend not to do this kind of statist, dirigiste planning in the UK, it’s a very French thing. But we should try, we would feel better for it.
The DUP is not going to get the current Brexit bill changed but it could get a new internal UK trade department with a very ambitious remit. Furthermore, why not have its main offices in Belfast ?
We could do all of this and not consult Brussels once, because it would be none of their business.
John Gemmell, Wem, Shropshire