THERE are not many occasions when Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is deserving of some sympathy from this country. However he’s in an unenviable position as he meets delegations of politicians from Northern Ireland to discuss future border arrangements.
The most high-profile was Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionists, who was in Brussels yesterday. Yet, because the Stormont power-sharing assembly is still in abeyance after the DUP and Sinn Fein fell out in January last year over a political scandal linked to green energy, it means Mr Barnier has to listen to a range of views rather than negotiate with the Northern Ireland executive.
As such, it’s all the more reason to regret the political vacuum that still exists in Northern Ireland – and Theresa May’s decision to form a Parliamentary pact with the DUP after the June 2017 election is a complicating factor. The Prime Minister knows every vote will count when any deal is put before MPs, especially given that there are said to be a hard core of at least 40 Conservative backbenchers who will oppose a “half-in, half-out Brexit” in all circumstances.
Yet, as the political pressure, and expectations, increase ahead of next week’s EU summit, families have a right to expect more statesmanship from MPs of all sides than they have seen in recent times.