FEW things are as flexible as a deadline—as Northern Ireland’s politicians know well. They have spent most of this year ignoring deadlines set in Westminster for the conclusion of talks to restore the devolved government in Belfast, which has been suspended since January. On December 4th they forced Theresa May to break another deadline, when they vetoed her plan to move the Brexit talks forward.
Mrs May had been told by the European Union that she had until this date to come up with enough concessions on the Brexit divorce to have a chance of persuading the EU summit on December 14th-15th to agree that “sufficient progress” had been made to move on to discussing the future relationship. The prime minister duly flew that day to Brussels to lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president. But at the last minute, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose ten MPs Mrs May needs for her ruling majority, stepped in to block a concession aimed at…Continue reading