Leading article

Sammy Wilson's curious Brexit position

There were many ironies about Sammy Wilson's attempt yesterday to defend the DUP's mesmerising position on Brexit, and one of the most striking was that it came on the eve of the Westminster debate when his party is due to vote against the proposal which actually confirms the last stage of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

His confident wider assessment of post Brexit prospects was also offered only two weeks after his DUP colleague and fellow Vote Leave supporter, the Stormont economy minister Diane Dodds, publicly lamented the impact which the loss of EU funding was having on the work of the business development agency Invest NI.

Mr Wilson insisted that the UK economy would strengthen as a result of Brexit but noticeably avoided offering any view on the performance of the person ultimately in charge of this process, the British prime minister Boris Johnson.

This was hardly surprising given that Mr Johnson, as soon as he achieved his comfortable majority in the House of Commons a year ago, swiftly and ruthlessly abandoned a relationship with the DUP which was previously so close that he was enthusiastically cheered during a cringe-worthy appearance at the party's annual conference.

Mr Wilson also took the opportunity to direct a predictable swipe against the Republic of Ireland, which he claimed, "gets tossed in the sea of economic storms, worldwide economic storms, like a cork".

However, the Dublin government can point out that it has moved steadily from being a small administration on the fringe of the continent to one which has demonstrated that it can count on the full backing of the 26 other EU member states.

Many economists believe that the UK, now cut adrift from many of its most important markets, faces a much more uncertain future after finally signing a trade deal which is still being assessed but even Mr Johnson has admitted fell short of his hopes for the crucial financial services sector.

There was no doubt about the verdict of the Scottish first minister Nichola Sturgeon on Mr Johnson's strategy, which she said had damaged and disrupted her nation's economy and society at the worst possible time.

Mr Wilson's basic assertion that the union was safe deserves to be viewed against the background of the repeated opinion polls indicating a clear majority for Ms Sturgeon's campaign to finally achieve Scottish independence.

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