What could be the final act in the long tragic-comedy that is Brexit is being played out in three cities this week — Belfast, Brussels, and Washington.
Leo Varadkar was in Brussels yesterday to discuss plans for a no-deal departure by the UK. Theresa May is in Belfast, but her speech there on Tuesday upset Brexiteers by appearing to pull back from full rejection of the border backstop. She travels to Brussels tomorrow to put her case for varying the withdrawal agreement.
Simon Coveney went to Washington yesterday, where a group of prominent Irish-American politicians are flexing their muscles over Brexit. Last week, a resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives, opposing the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Up to now, the issues being debated in the context of Brexit have been UK sovereignty and the economic repercussions. Peace now appears to be taking centre stage. “The EU is, first and foremost, a peace project,” European Council president, Donald Tusk, said in Brussels.
In a message to Ms May, Mr Tusk said: “Give us a deliverable guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland and the UK will leave the EU as a trusted friend.”
That approach is being reinforced in Washington, by US Senator George Mitchell, who brokered the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and who still wields a lot of influence. He says a crucial part of that deal is an open border. That message must be heard in the city that needs it most — Belfast.