Both the UK and the EU are engaged in a game of brinkmanship, amounting to a kind of shadow theatre— neither wants to shoulder the blame for the UK’s exit from the EU without a trade deal between the two.
The stakes are higher for the UK.
The prime minister Boris “BoJo” Johnson said to voters in 2019 he had an “oven-ready” Brexit deal to submit to the EU. This turned out be one of his customary lies.
Last Wednesday the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and BoJo agreed during a 3-hour dinner in Brussels that a “firm decision” would need to be made by the end of the weekend on whether there was any hope of a deal.
However, in a phone call a few days later they agreed to extend this deadline beyond the weekend, and issued a joint statement afterwards:
“We had a useful phone call this morning. We discussed the major unresolved topics.
Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.
And despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.
We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached”.
Both sides are conveying to the media they want to “go the extra mile”, and the challenge for each one is to show that the other side failed to go that “extra mile”.
The finality faced by both sides, however, is that any future extensions of deadlines will cease at the end of this month. On January 1st 2021 the UK leaves the EU, deal or no deal.
The key issue involves the terms on which the UK will acquire a “single market” deal with the EU.
BoJo’s acolytes accuse the EU of “cherry-picking” their way through the conditions for cementing such a deal, ignoring the fact that the EU’s position on the UK’s access to the single market has been clear from 2016. To quote The Guardian:
“The single market is the most level of level playing fields. So for the EU27 to accede to a demand from a large, neighbouring and economically significant third country – the UK – for preferential access to it without a binding commitment to abide by its rules is simply unthinkable. It would undermine the essence of the bloc.
That is why the EU27 are not budging.
All [the EU27] agree that no deal, regrettable as it would be, is better than a deal that risks giving UK companies an unfair competitive advantage in Europe’s single market – now or in the future.
That was the position in 2016 and it is the position now”.
In a nutshell: the UK will have to accept the spine of the EU’s regulatory framework in order to strike this deal.
So far, the UK has failed to understand that the EU is negotiating trade deals with other countries all the time, and what this process entails for the EU.
To cut the UK slack in a prospective trade deal will open the EU to charges from other countries seeking an EU trade deal along the lines of “why aren’t you giving us the easy terms you offered the UK?”.
The UK’s Brexiters interpret every step taken by the EU in its dealings with Albion as a vengeful attempt to punish the UK for daring to leave.
This is a Brexiter misreading, intentional or not, and the truth is simpler and more obvious.
The terms offered the UK for its departure could be used by other countries seeking trade deals with the EU as a “base-line” negotiating position for themselves, which will certainly not be conducive to the EU’s interests.
No slack to the UK, therefore no slack to these countries.
This is the likely unstated premise for the EU’s position with regard to the UK in these negotiations.
Despite all the last-minute shadow theatre (e.g., the UK threatening to scare-off French fishermen with Navy gunboats) surrounding these negotiations, BoJo Johnson is being confronted with an inexorable truth: either a No Deal Brexit or else a Brexit trading deal pretty much on the EU’s terms (with the EU making a few cosmetic concessions in a face-saving placation of the UK).
Whatever transpires, we should bet that BoJo, ever the hoaxer, will claim the result as a “victory”.
The EU will probably say, albeit not publicly, that the outcome gave those Englander bastards something which can’t do damage to the EU’s own interests.
Meanwhile Ukanians also have the Covid crisis to deal with, and BoJo and his team have been catastrophically inept (and hugely corrupt with respect to Covid-related procurement) in dealing with this so far.
Alas, on this front, the shameless BoJo and his circle have been claiming “world-beating victories” as the Covid death toll mounts.
In Ukania, as in the US, rightwing politicians feel impelled to contort reality so that everything can be presented as some kind of “victory”.
For these rightwing fraudsters, “losing” is impossible to accept (at least not publicly), and so the populace pays the deadly price for this mass, self-inflicted, idiocy.