Quasi-static models of barrier suppression have played a major role in our understanding of the ionization of atoms and molecules in strong laser fields. Despite their success, in the case of diatomic molecules these studies have so far been restricted to fields aligned with the molecular axis. In this paper we investigate the locations and heights of the potential barriers in the hydrogen molecular ion in an electric field of arbitrary orientation. We find that the barriers undergo bifurcations as the external field strength and direction are varied. This phenomenon represents an unexpected level of intricacy even on this most elementary level of the dynamics. We describe the dynamics of tunnelling ionization through the barriers semiclassically and use our results to shed new light on the success of a recent theory of molecular tunnelling ionization as well as earlier theories that restrict the electric field to be aligned with the molecular axis.