Who speaks for Northern Eire on Brexit – Enterprise bosses or the DUP?

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Tonight the ears of Northern Eire ought to be burning as Prime Minister Theresa Could hosts a particular reception in Downing Road for the voices of native trade, commerce and agriculture.

The battle for the hearts and minds of us all within the nice Brexit disaster is now waging in each nook of the UK – none extra so than right here, the place the 10 MPs of the Democratic Unionist Occasion seem decided to face down the views of these to whom Mrs Could will pay attention this night.

By no means earlier than have so many within the native enterprise group been so prepared to place their heads above the parapet of politics and problem their elected representatives as has occurred up to now week.

The very way forward for a British Prime Minister, of the Conservative Authorities, of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, is determined by Northern Eire. By a quirk of electoral arithmetic, the DUP finds itself uniquely positioned in a make or break pivotal position.

The occasion says it is not going to be moved regardless of the supportive message these gathered in Downing Road tonight will supply to Theresa Could. The stage is due to this fact set for a unprecedented battle of political and financial pursuits. Mrs Could might nicely marvel who is actually reflecting opinion on this nook of her more and more disunited kingdom – the politicians or the enterprise leaders?

To reply that query, it’s price returning to the one correct gauge we’ve got of Brexit views: the outcomes of the 2016 referendum within the 18 Northern Eire constituencies.

Who voted for and in opposition to leaving the EU and the way do these votes justify or in any other case the trenchant angle adopted by the DUP?

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When the DUP is reminded that 56% of Northern Eire voters within the referendum had been Remainers, the occasion chooses conveniently to disregard the native outcome and claims as a substitute that it displays the general 52% nationwide majority for leaving the EU.

Nevertheless, can that argument be sustained within the present local weather when the difficulty of the border and Northern Eire’s future is at stake? Can the 10 DUP members of Westminster have an agenda which takes little or no account of the sentiments of the bulk in NI who didn’t need to go away the EU within the first place?

Solely seven of the 18 constituencies in Northern Eire supported the DUP’s Brexit stance within the 2016 referendum. Three out of the 4 Belfast constituencies voted to Stay within the EU. Nigel Dodds, the main spokesman of the DUP at Westminster, represents an space in north Belfast the place the referendum vote was break up just about 50/50 with a slender victory for the Remainers.

In the case of her views on the EU, the south Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly seems to be probably the most unrepresentative of all – nearly 70% of voters in her constituency voted to Stay. Gregory Campbell’s diehard Brexit stance was additionally rejected by 52% of voters in East Londonderry. In South Antrim, the place Paul Girvan is MP, the Go away vote had a majority of solely 557 or 0.6% in a total turnout of 43,553.

In east Belfast, regarded by many as a bastion of the DUP, 48.6% opposed the occasion’s Go away place – hardly a vote of confidence within the views now being expressed by Gavin Robinson, the sitting MP. DUP chief Arlene Foster in Fermanagh and South Tyrone had solely 41% of referendum voters alongside the border supporting her Go away views.

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That mentioned, the DUP and certainly folks on either side of the referendum outcome might argue that 2016 shouldn’t be 2018. It’s doable that the constitutional warnings of the DUP are elevating new fears and swaying unionist voters, but so too might the financial arguments that Northern Eire can have the perfect of all worlds underneath Theresa Could’s withdrawal deal, as enterprise leaders are suggesting.

It’s straightforward to miss the truth that Ulster’s two most important business hubs, Belfast and Londonderry, rejected the DUP’s Brexit stance within the 2016 referendum by a considerable majority.

Sinn Fein’s abstentionism signifies that the 440,000 individuals who rejected the DUP’s Go away place and voted to Stay within the EU are completely disenfranchised on arguably a very powerful political challenge in 20 years because the Good Friday settlement referendum.

Within the land the place ‘one man, one vote’ was so bitterly contested, nationalists and unionists alike who had been Remainers haven’t any say in any respect at Westminster aside from the remoted unbiased voice of North Down’s Sylvia Hermon, who continues bravely to supply an alternate view to the DUP’s.

Of the 10 DUP MPs, solely 5 can declare with any confidence that they mirror majority opinion of their constituencies: Ian Paisley (62% North Antrim), Jim Shannon (55% Strangford), Sammy Wilson (55% East Antrim), Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (53% Lagan Valley) and David Simpson (52% Higher Bann).

Round 380,000 folks voted unionist of 1 shade or different within the 2017 common election, in comparison with 350,000 within the 2016 referendum who supported the Go away marketing campaign to exit the EU.

The distinction would possibly counsel that as many as 30,000 unionist voters don’t share the Brexit view of the 2 most important unionist events.

In 2016, Arlene Foster expressed her delight on the referendum outcome although in Northern Eire so many individuals had taken an reverse view to that of her occasion. “We at the moment are getting into a brand new period of an excellent stronger UK,” she mentioned with a confidence which has not been borne out by subsequent occasions. “I’m happy with the truth that this choice was taken by the folks and I might be working for the very best exit negotiation.”

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As First Minister, together with the late Martin McGuinness, she put her signature to a letter to Theresa Could which set out their views on Brexit and which is especially illuminating given the DUP’s powerful stance.

For instance, Foster and McGuinness wrote: “We have to retain so far as doable the benefit with which we at the moment commerce with EU member states and in addition importantly retain entry to labour … EU funds have been vastly vital to our financial system and the peace course of. Since 1994, for instance, we’ve got benefited to the tune of €13bn and in 2014-2020 we’d anticipate to attract down €3.5bn.”

The voting statistics of 2016 point out that Northern Eire was deeply divided then and it nearly definitely stays so now. A complete of 440,707 referendum voters in Northern Eire who wished to Stay within the EU have discovered themselves with just about no voice at Westminster on this challenge.

This weekend the DUP assembles for its annual occasion convention and finds itself holding the way forward for the Prime Minister and her authorities in its arms. No unionist occasion has wielded such potential energy because the heady days of House Rule a century in the past.

The massive query is, how will the DUP use that energy? To what extent will the occasion’s MPs recognise reasonably than ignore the issues of the enterprise and farming folks assembled in Downing Road tonight?

And above all, will the DUP belatedly settle for that in the case of Northern Eire’s future in Europe, a majority of individuals are not on the identical wavelength because the occasion’s 10 MPs at this important second within the UK’s and Europe’s historical past?

Belfast Telegraph

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