Brexit Border talks complicated by delay in resumption of Northern Executive
EU and Irish sources say discussions on politically sensitive elements of the brief inopportune
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams walks past a portrait of former first minister Ian Paisley in Stormont. The Northern Executive is still to resume after talks fell apart in January. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images
The delay in reaching agreement on a resumption of the Northern Executive is contributing to complicating attempts to get Brexit talks on Border issues under way, EU and Irish sources have confirmed.
There is a reluctance on the part of the EU team under Michel Barnier to engage in the sort of technical discussions that have started on the other two priority issues in the “divorce” talks, the financial settlement – the UK Brexit bill – and the issue of reciprocal citizens’ rights for those in each other’s territories.
So the Irish strand of the talks were set up as a “dialogue” instead but under the two most senior officials on either side, Mr Barnier’s deputy Sabine Weyand and the secretary general of the Brexit Department Olly Robbins. Both sides insist it remains a “top priority”.
The “dialogue”, also meeting for a week every month, will like the other two groups report to and co-ordinate their work with Mr Barnier and UK Brexit Secretary, David Davis. But Irish and EU sources admit the continued absence of an interlocutor in Belfast and continuing political uncertainty in talks in London and Belfast make discussions on politically sensitive elements of the brief inopportune.
Ironically it is not clear anyway if the return of the parties to the Northern Executive will produce a unified voice from the North, while London remains adamant that the primary representation of the North will be through the British Brexit team not Belfast. But the imperative for coming up with a deal between the DUP and Sinn Féin has acquired a new dimension.