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DUP should make the 'sea border' work

THE DUP's Brexit fantasy has entered a new phase. In a colourful charge led by its MPs, and joined yesterday in an alarmist intervention by agriculture minister Edwin Poots, it is now complaining about disruptions associated with the so-called Irish Sea border that its own disastrous approach rendered inevitable.

There are indeed practical problems with the new arrangements which are being implemented as part of the Northern Ireland protocol in the withdrawal agreement between the EU and Britain.

These have been well publicised and range from supply issues for supermarkets to British-based retailers refusing to serve Northern Ireland.

Haulage companies and businesses, as well as government officials, have warned that the difficulties could deepen.

Some of this can be blamed, as prime minister Boris Johnson did in the House of Commons on Wednesday, on teething problems; the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier echoed this, telling reporters in Brussels that it was inevitable there would be "glitches, problems and breakdowns".

But there are also structural changes which are here to stay and which the British government has committed to implement as part of its deal with the EU, which allows the north to remain in the European single market for goods.

This is proving to be deeply uncomfortable for the hard Brexiteers in the DUP ranks. Ian Paisley has railed against his former Conservative allies, saying they had "screwed over" the DUP.

Sammy Wilson, in whose constituency the sea border port of Larne lies, has blamed other political parties and, to their bemusement, every leading business organisation who warned against the risks associated with the DUP's approach to Brexit.

Mr Poots, whose department is responsible for conducting border checks on goods such as animal products arriving from Britain, has painted a vivid scenario in which there will be everything from a shortage of guide dogs to hungry children in schools and not enough food for hospital patients.

Alliance MP Stephen Farry said it was "scaremongering on steroids".

Given the years of warnings it received, many will find it difficult not to feel schadenfreude at the DUP's discomfort at how it the Brexit it facilitated has worked out.

The DUP seems to be divided on the issue, but wiser heads may yet prevail.

Though inferior to remaining in the EU, there are new post-Brexit realities to adjust to. A common sense approach is essential to take advantage of what opportunities now exist.

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