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Thursday, January 24, 2019

May Drinks In The Last Chance Saloon At Chequers On Friday – And The Drinks Are On You

After two years of going nowhere Theresa May and her so called top ministers (God help us if this is the best we can now muster in the UK) will meet in a last ditch effort to put together a plan for Brexit. As said this is after two years and absolutely no plan at all. Not even one written on the back of a fag packet.

The government’s chief Brexit negotiator made a startling point to ministers this week. Factoring in Brussels summer holidays, there are only “six weeks left” of negotiating time before the October summit at which the final Brexit deal is supposed to be agreed, he reportedly told them.

Olly Robbins, the UK official leading negotiations, delivered the news as part of a slideshow given to ministers who aren’t in May’s core team ahead of crucial crunch talks this Friday.

The lack of time is all the more striking given how little progress the UK has made on crucial issues in recent months. The UK has still not even signed the Withdrawal Agreement, with sticking points like the Irish border still no closer to resolution, and failure to do so would mean Britain leaves without a deal in March 2019.

One minister present at the meeting was left with the impression that “time is running out,”. No shit Sherlock.

As an aside we may all need to get a bit fitter if we are going to stand any chance after Brexit (assuming it happens). Try downloading this pdf from our web site now, it may just help one way or another. It’s about you not politics.

Ministers were also reportedly left with the impression that May is gearing up to move towards a softer Brexit when she meets her full Cabinet on Friday to discuss the long-awaited Brexit white paper. They were told that Robbins and his team would present them with “options” for the regulation of goods after Brexit, but would not necessarily be asked to choose between those options.

Robbins appears to be seeking a licence from ministers to pursue a range of approaches for goods, ranging from a “low-access, high-sovereignty” model to a Norway-style arrangement where Britain essentially retains one aspect of single market membership.

Ministers suspect that licence would push Britain towards a softer Brexit approach because the EU27 would be much more receptive to a Norway-style approach than to its harder alternatives.

Theresa May’s team met her EU counterparts at the European Council summit in Brussels last week, but a lack of progress on key issues such as the Irish border means Brexit has been booted down the agenda, with October looking like a more realistic date for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.

So the EU and the UK are supposed to sign off a plan for Brexit in less than six weeks time. Problem is, there isn’t one.

What it means: As stated above leading government ministers are all meeting on Friday to try and come up with something to present to the EU. But let’s face it  on past performance and listening to the mumbling from these Tory ministers over the past few days, Friday will probably be another day of squabbling, back stabbing and ‘leaks’ to the press. No change there then. Theresa May wants to convince them of a ‘Norway-style’ agreement, with the UK aligned with EU rules on trading manufacturing and agricultural goods, but not services.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, have hinted in the past week that if deadlines aren’t met, the transition period (the time for governments to prepare the implementation of whatever’s been agreed) may need to be extended… but 30 MPs led by the ultra right-winger Rees-Mogg delivered a letter to Theresa May saying she shouldn’t allow that to happen, and must ‘stand firm’.

The EU isn’t going to make it is easy for the UK – they’ve said several times they’re not keen on anything that feels like a ‘cherry-picked’ plan where the UK picks the bits of the single market it likes, and leaves the bits it doesn’t (like free movement of people). So get fit for a Tory Brexit, it’s going to be rough (well if you ain’t a right-wing multimillionaire Tory that is.

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