Theresa May will hold fresh talks about Brexit today with Donald Tusk, the European Council president, during a summit in Brussels.
The prime minister is under pressure from the EU over Britain’s financial settlement, if withdrawal talks are to move to the next stage.
But Mrs May is also under immense pressure from the Irish government, which is saying there must be clarity that there will be no hard border before the negotiations can continue.
As our report yesterday of a speech in Belfast by Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, showed, Dublin is playing hardball on the border. Mr Coveney seemed to imply that nothing less than Northern Ireland staying in the single market and customs union would satisfy the Irish government. This would certainly mean a border in the Irish Sea.
Now it has emerged that Dublin has low opinion of Britain’s negotiating skills over Brexit. Somehow a dismissive report has ended up in the hands of RTE.
It is true that Mrs May’s government is fragile, and struggling to agree a way forward on Brexit. But according to the leaked report, a judge in the European Court of Justice is unimpressed by “the quality of politicians in Westminster”.
Perhaps so, but the quality of politicians in Dublin isn’t great either, or in Belfast or Paris or Washington or, indeed, Brussels. All western nations struggle to find talented leaders.
The challenge of the UK disentangling from the EU would stretch the most talented politicians, let alone lesser ones.
It is clear now that the two-year period for withdrawal under Article 50 is woefully inadequate for such an undertaking.
Dublin has made a decision not only to ally itself fully with the EU, but to take a hardline on talks progress.
It is naturally concerned at Brexit and is taking advantage of its current influence. But the UK will remain overwhelmingly important to the Irish economy after 2019, and will still be a close cultural neighbour, however much Dublin aligns itself to the EU. It is unwise to hasten a disorderly Brexit.