Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. May. 23, 2019 3 min read

SO in @BorderIrish @BorderIrishSea news it emerges that Karen Wheeler, the civil servant trying to manage the circus is leaving. She had a hard job and people who worked with her said she was a valiant straight-talker. Which is valuable in a world.../1

....of constant delay and obfuscation by politicians. Time and again, as I reported, meetings of the Border Delivery Group got cancelled because the wretched cabinet couldn't agree on them. /2

And when NI business groups did finally get engagement, there was admirable clarity, despite all the wishful-thinking and head-in-the-sandism of the politicians. /3

And then to her credit she spelled out that there were 'no magic solutions' to the border, if #brexit meant customs controls. Not 'no' solutions, just no magic ones /4

 https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/brexit/technology-cant-prevent-hard-border-in-ireland-if-brexit-means-customs-controls-firms-told-38021795.html 

All this, as it happens, just as @GregHands and @NickyMorgan01 are in NI for a fact-finder on the viability of their 'alternative arrangements' plans.... I wonder her seriously they are prepared to listen to those who live/work the border. I hope seriously. /5

I am losing count of the number of "serious and open-minded" conversations about border measures that, when you mention UK promise for "no new infrastructure, related checks and controls" then say, "ah yes, well that..we'd have to change that.." /6

So that brings to the dreaded backstop and the renegotiation of the December 2017 Joint Report which @BorisJohnson or @DominicRaab will presumably have to renegotiation...unless we're going back to the October backstop and a @BorderIrishSea (shhh, don't tel DUP) /7

And speaking of the @duponline ..check out this @DianeDoddsMEP
campaign vid for today #EP2019...nothing like staking the middle ground. Not :( /8

Check out the DUP manifesto on the backstop..not a word about 'alternative arrangements' there...it's a 100% compromise-free zone /9

 http://www.mydup.com/images/uploads/publications/European_manifesto_-_Final.pdf 

Am told that the interviews between DUP and @BorisJohnson and @DominicRaab have been a rather nasty shock in Belfast. Though they shouldn't have been surprised. If Ireland becomes a block to #Brexit, hard to bet on Ireland winning that fight. /10

Recall the leaked @BorisJohnson letter from June 2018 (h/t @faisalislam from memory) which a very reliable sources tells me was the fruit of a trip to Ireland in which it dawned on BJ that the border is indeed tough nut to crack. /11

 https://www.irishnews.com/news/2018/11/27/news/boris-johnson-advocated-border-in-irish-sea-according-to-leaked-letter-1494131/ 

Not clear to me how you get to an @BorderIrishSea as long as @duponline are in confidence and supply with govt, but that only speaks to the fact that the new Tory PM will face same constraints as the last one. /12

Divisons aside, the DUP still wants #Brexit because it believes it will lead to the same sunny uplands as some Tory Brexiteers....although @duponline manifesto has a *very* curious request for more police.

You might ask, if Brexit so brilliant, why need more cops????

/13

Getting the Stormont executive back together might provide another avenue for legitimising 'special status' for NI (which it already has to some degree)....but I don't hear huge optimism about prospects for this. Others like @SJAMcBride @JP_Biz @PatLeahyIT might say different?/14

My contacts on UK side are willing, keen, but gloomy....the window for a deal, even with government support on both sides is tight - needs to be done before the cash-for-ash #RHI @BiomassScandal enquiry reports, since @DUPleader Arlene Foster will not come out well from it. /15

All pretty gloom really. It's why I'm not sure I buy all this talk of the Boris Johnson reverse-ferret, soft-soap on the @theresa_may #Brexit deal, since if it passes it = customs union, via backstop or as a result of the trade negotiations where reality dawns. /16

But maybe Karen Wheeler will be proved wrong...maybe @GregHands and @NickyMorgan01 and @ShankerASingham are, as we speaking, setting straight @MichaelAodhan @Freight_NI @ManufacturingNI

Let's see.... 17/ENDS


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