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Theresa May takes DUP line

The huge sense of foreboding which has been growing across Ireland, north and south, as each disastrous chapter of the Brexit debacle unfolds will not have been eased by Theresa May's latest intervention.

Mrs May deserves credit for including a visit to a border community at the start of a two-day schedule which was completed by her keynote speech in Belfast city centre yesterday.

However, the unmistakable influence of the DUP was evident at all stages of a programme which gave the impression that it was drawn up on the direct instructions of Arlene Foster.

Mrs May's sole engagement outside Belfast was in Mrs Foster's constituency, and the prime minister went on to dine with DUP figures while only allowing the briefest of access to the other main parties.

Most strikingly, Mrs May's Waterfront Hall address yesterday repeatedly emphasised themes which were straight from the DUP manifesto and offered no solutions whatsoever to the Brexit crisis.

It will be recognised that Mrs May now relies on the DUP for her survival at Westminster but she must also be acutely aware that the present arrangements are transient and could change very rapidly.

The other parties at Stormont, which remains in suspension and where the DUP holds just 28 of the 90 seats, are highly unlikely to have been impressed by their treatment yesterday.

Even more pointedly, governments across the EU and particularly in Dublin, will have searched in vain for a hint that Mrs May is ready to stand up to her internal Conservative opponents and produce a sustainable Brexit strategy.

It was at least noteworthy that Mrs May took the opportunity to listen at first hand to the concerns of both border voices and business representatives from different traditions.

If as a result she returned home last night with a full appreciation of the range of disasters which would surround any no-deal withdrawal from the EU, the only logical conclusion she could reach was that the time had come to begin the overdue process of distancing herself from the DUP.

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