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Brexit chaos for nationalists and unionists

Despite the contrived cheers of a small group of DUP supporters as the result of the 2016 EU referendum was announced at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast, most ordinary citizens only ever regarded the outcome with grim foreboding.

Nationalists had always identified the huge risks which would accompany a mishandled Brexit, with any suggestion of a no deal departure having particularly grave implications for the border region and beyond.

Unionists quickly realised that the decisive way in which both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay in the EU during the entirely unnecessary poll, with England and Wales narrowly opting to leave, would inevitably accelerate a debate on the final break-up of the UK.

People from both traditions, as well as the unaligned, had a clear sense of the economic and political turmoil which was likely to follow as the British government wandered into the Brexit labyrinth without any form of coherent strategy.

However, even the most pessimistic observers did not envisage the full extent of the constitutional chaos which would surround the eventual arrival of Boris Johnson in Downing Street.

His decision earlier this week to prorogue parliament for an extended period in the run-up to the Brexit deadline has not only galvanised the opposition parties at Westminster but also caused deep unease among many Conservative figures.

Mr Johnson suffered a serious blow yesterday when his party's well regarded Scottish leader, Ruth Davidson, announced that she was standing down, citing both family commitments and tellingly `the conflict I have felt over Brexit'.

Ms Davidson played a key role in ensuring that Scottish voters rejected independence five years ago, and her resignation, combined with anger over Mr Johnson's wider performance, will add significantly to the growing pressure for a second referendum on the issue.

It is also clear that the 12 Westminster seats which Ms Davidson helped to gain for the Scottish Tories in 2017 now look extremely vulnerable, throwing into further doubt Mr Johnson's prospects of retaining power if, as widely expected, he calls an early general election.

With the suspension of Stormont stretching out indefinitely, and Mr Johnson making no discernible effort to work for its return, we are surrounded by stalemate and uncertainties at all levels. It is hardly what the Brexit enthusiasts in the DUP envisaged three years ago.

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