The DUP needs to 'steady the bap' or face a divorce from business

A Brexit 'no deal' could would be "disastrous" for the north's agri-food sector and could cost it more than £1 billion a year
A Brexit 'no deal' could would be "disastrous" for the north's agri-food sector and could cost it more than £1 billion a year A Brexit 'no deal' could would be "disastrous" for the north's agri-food sector and could cost it more than £1 billion a year

IT'S no coincidence that the DUP has hogged Stormont's economy portfolio since 2007. After all, it claims to be the party of - and for - business.

Notwithstanding the RHI debacle, it has carried out its functions with the general acceptance (if not always aplomb) of 'Corporate Northern Ireland'.

But as in marriages, in boardrooms, and often in life, even the very best relationships sour, and those separations can be amicable or caustic.

So to say the DUP and the north's business community are at loggerheads right now is putting it mildly.

Indeed, there exists a vitriol and bile that could manifest itself in the coming days in an agreed statement from business organisations not just distancing themselves from the current DUP thinking, but by putting the boot in.

The party of democrats has effectively cut itself adrift from business and civic society.

On Thursday night, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was a guest at a business dinner in Belfast hosted by the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association.

He listened to its chairman Brian Irwin herald the withdrawal agreement as positive and enabling more substantive talks around the north's future trading relationship with the EU.

Mr Irwin is a breadman, and he joked that those who would face down the deal should "steady the bap".

He insisted it would be "disastrous" for the agri-food sector, which simply couldn't absorb increased customs, tariffs and regulatory costs on trade between Northern Ireland and the EU. The cost to the sector would, he claimed, be more than £1 billion a year.

He urged politicians in the room to show decisive leadership and work together with the business community to ensure the interests of the economy and society take priority over party politics.

Cue 'hear hears' and wild applause.

At that stage Sir Jeffrey had to slip off for a prior appointment in a television studio, where he came face to face with the head of the Ulster Farmers' Union, an organisation which backed Leave in the referendum.

In a bizarre exchange on The View, he proceeded to patronise the UFU by accusing it of not having read nor understood the document. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Business groups were hinting privately yesterday that they've had their fill of the DUP. The relationship has gone toxic. Expect invitations for the 'party of business' to future breakfasts, lunches and dinners to get, ahem, lost in the post.

The spokesman for one organisation told me they'd probably lose members if they invited the DUP to their events in the circumstances. In effect, they don't want to be handcuffed to idiots.

They've tried talking and they've tried reasoning with the DUP. But bridges have been burnt, and they will take a long time to repair.

Abba once sang 'Breaking up is never easy to do, but I have to go'.

Business and the DUP? Knowing me, knowing you. It's the best I can do . . . .