• Patrick Cox

Heading for the Brexit cliff edge

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

The terrible handling of the Brexit negotiations are making a 'no-deal' scenario more likely

David Davis MP Brexit Secretary of State walking to Downing Street
David Davis MP Brexit Secretary of State walking to Downing Street

In the Commons today David DavisI said the argument over the 'Brexit bill' is likely to go on for the "full duration of the negotiation".

If this is true it means that the UK is heading for 'no-deal', i.e. crashing out of the EU. Michel Barnier has made clear, and has been backed to the hilt by every one of the 27 countries involved, that there are 3 separation issues that must be sorted before the UK can strike a post-Brexit deal with the EU.

Those three issues are: the border between Ireland and the UK (the UK's only land border with the EU); the issue of rights for citizens, and the exit bill to be paid by the UK.

A very interesting article by Faisal Islam yesterday shed some light on the current state of negotiations. In it the Sky News political editor discussed the issue of a 'transition deal'. It's becoming increasingly clear that it'll be impossible to tie up the whole shebang of Brexit before the deadline of March 2019. So an temporary fix might be agreed where we formally leave but basically stay till we can get the details fixed. A bit like getting kicked out by your spouse, but being allowed to kip on the sofa until you can find a flat to rent.

The problem is that the EU doesn't want to agree a transitional deal until 'Phase 1' - the three issues above - are sorted. Yesterday Islam wrote this:

If we need a transition deal, then rather quickly we need to come to agreement on the ongoing Phase 1 of the negotiations. On current form this will not happen in time for the October EU summit. It might happen by December. "My hunch is it won't happen till Christmas," one informed Cabinet minister told me.

It would have been tight to negotiate absolutely everything necessary (a VAST amount) between Jan 2018 and March 2019 in order to leave, and that timeline only works if the bill gets agreed pronto.

If David Davis - as per his Commons statement - is now saying that the argument over a phase 1 issue is going to rumble on for the 'full duration' of the negotiations, that is till 2019, then it's really hard to see the UK getting any kind of deal even a transitional one. There might be hope from Davis that the EU might buckle - which they show no signs of doing - or take pity on the UK but that, I fear, is a vain hope.

Today, Davis also claimed to be making "concrete progress" in Brexit negotiations.

As those in construction know, concrete is a very caustic substance which needs to be handled with care, and needs to be very precisely mixed, else it falls apart completely.


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