The EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s comments to the joint session of the Oireacthas, that he would work to avoid a hard Irish border, is proof there is a growing understanding across the EU of the challenges arising from Brexit, in particular in relation to Northern Ireland, with a willingness to try and address them.
It is clear there is an opportunity to create a special deal for Northern Ireland which takes into account the all-island dimension, avoids a hard border, protects the local economy and defends the Good Friday Agreement.
But while civil society and the business community, alongside some elected representatives, have done a good job in raising these requirements, it is clear we need an Executive to advocate for its interests and to achieve the best outcome.
There is also a clear warning, especially in the context of a hard Brexit in which a customs frontier emerges in Ireland, that an actual border will be next to impossible to avoid.
For all of the warm platitudes about avoiding it, there has to date been little practical indication regarding how this could be achieved.
For Alliance, we remain committed to avoiding a hard Brexit for the UK as a whole, supporting a second referendum on the outcome of any negotiations, and achieving a special deal for Northern Ireland.
These are practical steps that could unite the entire community in this region.
Stephen Farry MLA, Alliance Brexit spokesperson, North Down