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Britain and EU approach Brexit endgame with no-deal theatrics

19 Oct 2020 12:57 PM

The UK and the EU’s ongoing game of brinkmanship over a Brexit deal continued last week and over the weekend.

While Downing Street said on Friday that negotiations were “over”, attempts to revive prospects of a deal will continue this week, with UK ministers careful over the weekend not to totally shut down the prospect of further talks.

On the other hand, Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet office, took a conciliatory tone yesterday, saying that the UK’s door is “ajar” if the EU is prepared to make concessions, with friction with France over fishing rights one of the key obstacles the two sides face alongside fair competition and dispute settlement.

For its part, the EU last week sparked confusion over whether it wanted to “continue” or “intensify” negotiations – the kind of linguistic point that matters in the highly legalistic world of EU policymaking.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier was due to arrive in London for talks with his British counterpart David Frost this week. Barnier's spokesperson said they would instead be speaking on the phone today to discuss the structure of future talks.

It is unclear to what extend these jibes and counter-jibes are political theatre, with either side competing to present any eventual compromise as a victory. The British side is coming under increasing domestic pressure as concerns mount in the UK that business is insufficiently prepared for the serious disruption a crash out of the EU would result in.


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