April 24, 2018
If the House of Commons, Council and European Parliament are to approve any deal by 29 March 2019, negotiations will need to be done by the end of October 2018 at the latest. Taking into account the summer break, that is basically tomorrow!
Not only have talks been advancing at a snail’s pace for months, but the UK still has not decided on its objective. The House of Lords has called for staying in the customs union. The government says no, as that will mean no new free trade agreements.
An EU-UK free trade zone de facto rules out inclusion of services (especially financial services). Remaining in the single market means the UK will have to accept free movement of workers.
But these three options seem the only ones possible. The Irish border question is also still unsolvable. Talks with the WTO have not yet begun. As an EU negotiator told me recently, “with every new issue, it’s like finding scorpions under a stone.”
Thus we are nowhere, and nobody seems worried, neither in London (every day is a victory for Mrs May) nor in Brussels which is playing on the defensive while expecting the other side to take the necessary initiative.
It’s as if there was a vast conspiracy to keep things as they are, so that the failure of Brexit can be presented as something inevitable and nobody’s fault. More and more I am thinking about the words of Tancredi in The Leopard: “For everything to stay the same, everything must change.”Daniel Gueguen