The DUP are barking up the wrong tree

The DUP’s kneejerk reaction to the Times story that the Brexit sherpas are working on a plan to “avoid divergence” of regulations and standards on our island proves how insecure they feel the Union really is. According to the ancient rule of our politics that the insecure pay more attention to their opponents than their candid friends, they’ll receive perverse validation from Sinn Fein ‘s parallel rejection and their old jibe, “We always knew the Brits would betray ye. Whadida tell ye”?

Even the slightest whiff of difference between NI and GB is enough to set them off even though the reports of a limited customs agreement are a far cry from the no-no of NI remaining in the single market and the customs union.

On the face of it, the DUP case gets intellectual heft from Trimble’s old economic adviser Graham Gudgin in the Newsletter.

A close reading however suggests that the idea of a customs agreement on selected items like agriculture and energy and a free trade agreement with the EU/Republic are not so far from what Gudgin has picked up from the British proposals of last August.

Where he falls down is to pander to unionist paranoia over a dark nationalist plot to subvert the Union by Brexit stealth.

Apart from the Irish specific disavowals, if you don’t trust them, what sense would it be to scheme for a UI and the huge upheaval that would cause, when your economic future is at stake?

The DUP would do better to press for answers and then for active participation in working towards an outcome which in whatever form will require close links between north and south. That would be the mature approach which combines working for the people’s interests with supporting the viable Union.

Such a positive approach would add a powerful argument to their case for restoring the Assembly, rather than howling into the wind.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London