ACCORDING to Scarborough and Whitby MP and education minister Robert Goodwill, the Government is not preoccupied with Brexit and can “walk and chew gum at the same time”. Mr Goodwill was speaking in the House of Commons following the resignation of the entire board of the Social Mobility Commission, including former Darlington MP Alan Milburn, in protest at the lack of progress towards the fairer Britain promised by Theresa May when she took office as Prime Minister.

Can the Government multi-task as effectively as it claims it can? Not on today’s evidence.

Hopes had been high that the completion of the first phase of Brexit talks would be announced this afternoon – until the intervention of the DUP scuppered a potential deal on the Irish border.

The deal would have meant Northern Ireland effectively remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union, raising questions from the devolved governments of Wales and Scotland about special terms of their own.

Meanwhile, back at home, three separate stories in Tuesday’s Northern Echo are particularly telling. On page 18, we report how supposedly wealthy York needs food banks more than nearly any other city. Protests over Universal Credit leaving many in County Durham in crisis over Christmas leads page 29, while Shildon Alive’s project to reduce food poverty features on page 30.

Taken together, these articles give a snapshot of how families across the region are struggling to put food on the table, never mind improve life chances for their children and grandchildren.

Walking and chewing gum? More like falling between two stools.