The UK Prime Minister spent Thursday and Friday in Northern Ireland and included a visit to the border in Belleek, Co Fermanagh. At the same time, the EU was publishing its advice and outlining specifically what would happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which was of little comfort to Irish agriculture either side of the border.
The PM’s keynote speech of her visit was delivered in Belfast on Friday and it bluntly rejected the notion that the backstop agreement of Northern Ireland (NI) retaining access to the EU services would not be accepted by the UK government if it applied to NI alone, effectively creating a border in the Irish sea.
At the same time, the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was giving his first formal response to the UK white paper on Brexit, submitted a week earlier.
While the tone of his delivery was courteous and conciliatory, there was no doubt left that even as it was presented then, it was not going to fly in Brussels as it was looking for de facto membership of the single market for industrial goods and agricultural produce but not accepting the four principles of the single market.
The chief negotiator did, however, acknowledge that it was the basis for negotiation and he committed as did the new Brexit secretary in the UK government, Dominic Raab, to an intensive negotiation continuing over the summer.
No solution for farmers or business
Where does this leave farmers on the island of Ireland? A quick glance at the 16-page EU document published on Friday suggests that they, like all other sections of society, will be in a very difficult place, with the trading normality that is currently enjoyed, shattered.
As well as the tariff issue, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules will be enforced on any trade from the UK to the EU, which will involve physical inspections. This is in addition to the tariff issue that has been frequently covered by the Irish Farmers Journal.
As the positions stand, redefined by the UK and EU at the end of this week, it is impossible to see the basis for common ground develop.
One side or the other will have to back away from red lines that they have drawn. The only possibility is that every negotiation needs stalemate, walkouts and lots of brinkmanship. The consequences of a no-deal Brexit were set out by the International Monetary Fund earlier in the week and unsurprisingly there are no winners, only losers. And Ireland would be the biggest loser of all.