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Analysis

Don’t get hopes up… a la carte Brexit is still off table

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 30.08.2018

People are probably getting over-excited about Michel Barnier’s statement that the EU is “prepared to offer a partnership with the UK such as has never been with any other third country”. After weeks of no-deal warnings, the markets reacted positively: the pound rallied, with the stock market falling in response.

But while Barnier’s comments may mark a change in tone, the European Commission’s chief negotiator reiterated his opposition to a “single market a la carte”, adding that “single market means single market”.

What this means is that when Barnier and his opposite number Dominic Raab sit down for more talks tomorrow, they will still be a long way apart. In particular, no progress has been made on how to avoid border controls in Ireland.

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It’s no surprise, therefore, that more and more people say the talks may slip from their current official deadline of mid-October. Not only have Raab and Barnier spoken about a potential short delay; the FT reports that some UK ministers are now shooting for a December conclusion and EU officials think the talks may drag on until the New Year.

Those wanting a deal may be comforted by a separate unsourced story in The Times saying Emmanuel Macron wants the EU to offer the UK a deal based on “concentric circles”, with the EU and the euro at its core and the UK in a second ring. But the French president’s plans depend on us first achieving an amicable divorce (which requires solving that Irish border question) and then persuading the other EU countries to buy into his vision (which they don’t yet).

It’s also worth remembering that if the prime minister is going to get a deal remotely along the lines of Chequers, she will have to make more humiliating concessions. As Nick Timothy, her former chief of staff, writes in the Telegraph: “We know what will come next. The EU will say that the UK must make further concessions, including accepting free movement rules, significant annual payments to Brussels, and, perhaps, EU rules for services.”

No one voted for the miserable deal May is trying to negotiate or the crash-out scenario the hardline Brexiters are pushing for. All the more reason for a People’s Vote at the end of the talks.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “Don’t get hopes up… a la carte Brexit is still off table”

  • Was lying in bed last night and had a horrible thought….what if the UK government is playing good cop (TMay), bad cop (ERG) to get the EU to “cough”?