Over the Bank Holiday weekend, DUP leader Arlene Foster appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show to state that she would like to see less rhetoric from the European Union as negotiations trundle on. She said that the DUP did not believe that the UK needed to stay in the Customs Union to have a free flow of goods and people on the island of Ireland. Cabinet divisions on the issue between the ‘remainers’ and ‘brexiteers’ erupted later in the week around the possibility of some sort of Customs Union with the EU after Brexit.
It has also emerged that after his flying visit to Northern Ireland the previous week, Brexit Minister David Davis has ducked an invitation to appear in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in relation to the Irish border and nominated his number two to appear instead. True leadership!
This week the Northern Ireland Office circulated a draft consultation document on "legacy" matters to the main parties. It is understood the draft does not contain a controversial suggestion for a so-called statute of limitations and that the DUP want to deal with that issue separately.
During Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that the current system of investigating the past was unfair as it only investigates members of the security forces. There is support across the parties to launch a consultation that deals with legacy matters but as ever in Northern Irish politics, the devil will be in the detail.
The Government also narrowly voted down an attempt to establish a new inquiry into relations between the media and police spear-headed by Ed Milliband. The vote once again showed the importance of DUP MPs in propping up Theresa May’s Government as the vote went through with 304 votes against and 295 in favour with the 9 DUP MPs votes proving decisive.
The Government did, however, pass amendments to grant a review of press standards in Northern Ireland with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport later saying that there will be an independent reviewer for Northern Ireland.
Closer to home, after his public split from the party leadership over the past number of weeks, Jim Wells eventually had the DUP whip withdrawn. He says he stands by all his allegations but still continues to support the party’s core policies. The implications of this disciplinary action will be minimal in the absence of an Assembly. However, it does leave the party without a representative on the influential Assembly Commission.
Meanwhile, the Renewable Heat Incentive Public Inquiry scheme continues its work. Indeed, it is ironic that the issue which brought down the Assembly at Stormont is now the only show in town at Parliament buildings.