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Brexit crunch period approaches

There has been a flurry of political activity as the Brexit negotiations move towards a decisive stage, with mixed messages coming from the key figures on the probability of an agreed outcome.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has held a series of meetings with the Northern Ireland parties and it was important for Brussels to hear the pro-Remain position, which represents the majority view of people in the north, something the DUP tends to dismiss.

After Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and Greens met with Mr Barnier last Friday, it was the turn yesterday of the UUP and DUP to hold discussions.

Clearly, most attention has been on the DUP which holds a pivotal position at Westminster and is applying firm pressure to Theresa May as she tries to get a Brexit deal across the line.

The prime minister may not have been too pleased to hear Arlene Foster restate her position last week that there cannot be a border down the Irish Sea, adding: ''The red line is blood red.''

Mrs Foster has been criticised for her terminology, which has unfortunate connotations in this part of the world.

Yesterday, she rowed back on the phrase, explaining she meant the line was 'deep red' and 'not pink'.

If that is what she meant then she should have said so, but then the DUP leader has a tendency to use immoderate language which has consequences she doesn't necessarily intend.

That aside, we are now getting to the crunch period when the British government will have crucial decisions to make.

Will Mrs May come up with a plan the DUP can agree to or will she call their bluff and try to push through a deal in the hope of garnering some Labour support?

The DUP is fond of insisting it is protecting the interests of Northern Ireland.

If that was truly the case then the party should have recognised that it was in the north's interests to stay in the EU and all this uncertainty and chaos could have been avoided.

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