Leader Comment: Blasé Brexiteers need to think again

Recent polls suggest that a troublingly high percentage of Brexiteers are perfectly willing to pay what we consider to be unacceptably high prices for the UK to leave the EU.

Boris Johnson has dismissed concerns over the Irish border. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Boris Johnson has dismissed concerns over the Irish border. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

When it comes to both the Good Friday Agreement which secured peace in Northern Ireland and Scotland’s continued membership of the UK, a great many Leavers in England have adopted the view that if these things are weakened by Brexit then that’s life and we shall all have to get on with it.

This blasé attitude to such incredibly sensitive issues give us all pause for thought.

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The issues of Northern Ireland and Scotland after Brexit, though different in nature, are inextricably linked. If an arrangement is found which gives Northern Ireland special status and avoids a hard border with the Republic, many on the other side of the Irish Sea will be hugely relieved. But others would be infuriated.

Yesterday, it emerged that Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, have threatened to quit if the UK government reaches a compromise over Brexit that threatens to “undermine the integrity” of the UK.

The two are said to have made it clear to Prime Minister Theresa May that they would resign if Northern Ireland has a unique deal because such an arrangement would fuel the case for Scottish independence.

Leading Brexiteers are fond of saying that “nobody voted for” any of the proposed compromises, such as remaining in a customs union, that might make the Brexit process less painful. This may be so – but nor did anyone vote for a Brexit that threatened peace in Northern Ireland or undermined the integrity of the UK.

Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Davidson and Mundell’s position was “bizarre”. In fact, there is some logic to their stance. From a unionist point of view, any agreement that gave Northern Ireland status denied to Scotland would, inevitably, play into the SNP’s hands.

It is the view of The Scotsman that continued peace in Northern Ireland is more important than the delivery of a “hard Brexit” for which nobody explicitly voted.

May is under intense pressure from within Conservative ranks to walk away from the EU without a deal. The truth is, however, that she should make the case for the UK remaining within the customs union. The price for leaving it is, we believe, too high.