A short analysis of how Theresa May’s Salzburg humiliation unfolded.
Nothing that Donald Tusk said on Chequers, that Emmanuel Macron said about some Brexiteers (while stressing he respected the choice of British voters), and that Angela Merkel said about the Single Market and the four freedoms, is anything they hadn’t said before.
The surprise today is in many ways due to misreading the past few weeks and months. A misplaced optimism and reports stemming from who knows where, ignoring reality, confusing details that evolve all the time with substance and principles that have remained intact since day one.
Theresa May’s ‘Chequers or nothing’ approach has frustrated many. It is not viewed as a strength, but a worrying weakness: not having the strength to do what is needed to get an agreement, and push it over the line back home.
The UK’s attempts to divide and conquer have backfired spectacularly:
- The 27 European leaders talk to each other. Who knew?!
- Michel Barnier’s mandate and instructions come from the EU27.
The daily tactical blunders and empty threats did the rest: ‘We’ll change the deal after 2019’ (Michael Gove🗳️), ‘We won’t pay the bill’ (Dominic Raab🗳️), reports of divergent food standards via a US trade deal (Liam Fox🗳️) [and how that reconciles with asking to be in the Single Market for goods, who knows], etc.
Quite a few will blame officials in the same way they blame Michel Barnier for being “too rigid”🔒. Yes, Chequers is flawed but at the heart of the UK stance and strategy, just like the EU27’s, are political decisions (red lines), direction and leadership in a very asymmetrical negotiation.
So, where are things at?
Exactly where they were the day before Salzburg. In urgent need of a backstop that avoids a hard border in Northern Ireland and then a political declaration precise enough to not question the integrity of the Single Market post-2019.🔷
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)