An excellent thread by Dmitry Grozoubinski on the Government’s logic that follows from the position it put itself in, its gaslighting of a significant part of the population, and a total disregard for the consequences for people’s lives.

First published in February 2020.

Thread to get me yelled at by pretty much everyone:

The UK negotiating position and posture in the EU Free Trade Agreement actually makes perfect sense from the government’s perspective. But I am still not sure it is the right one.

To arrive at this conclusion, I am postulating two facts not in evidence.

Postulate one:

The government actually believes its own version of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiation story. Theresa May was never serious about No-Deal, but Boris Johnson forced EU concessions because he would do it.

As you know, that is not exactly my read of how that all went down, but recent events feel like the government has internalised their characterisation as fact.

Postulate two:

Like any political force, the primary objective of the government is to retain their majority in Parliament and survive the next election. That is not a criticism, by the way. Having the world’s most virtuous policies helps no one if you are stuck in opposition.

With these assumptions in hand, the government strategy of aggressive, often misleading, and exclusively domesticly focused, communications starts to make a lot more sense.

If the government fundamentally believes the EU has no stomach for a WTO-Brexit and will compromise their objectives to avoid it, then all it needs to do to extract concessions is demonstrate over and over its willingness to finish 2020 without a deal.

UK negotiators can claim it is unafraid of No-Deal if the majority of the UK public has been convinced that:
A) the EU requests are unreasonable;
B) the UK tried its best to be fair;
C) No-Deal is fine;
D) Any hardship is patriotic suffering in the face of EU regulatory colonialism.

The advantage of this for the government is that politically it is a win-win. If they are right and the EU buckles, they get the FTA they want and return as heroes. If they are wrong, the groundwork is in to politically rebrand failure as justified resistance to EU extortion.

A downside of this approach is that it assumes an almost crystalline fragility to the EU resolve that just isn’t hugely in evidence. The EU’s negotiating mandate doesn’t read like it was drafted by German automakers terrified of losing access to “Treasure Island”.


Another is that the consequences of Brexit, especially of one on WTO terms, promise to be fairly significant. To increase public support for walking away from the table, the government must constantly talk these down. That could have consequences both practical and real.

A final downside is that so much of what is in contention in the FTA is about the balance between trust and legal obligation. The UK’s posture may be building up its No-Deal resolve, but it is simultaneously undermining the trust the EU needs to feel comfortable backing off.


The UK Government’s approach makes sense both within their internal logical framework and as part of their political calculus. I am however skeptical of the former, and concerned about the lives that may be ruined, even if that does not threaten the Tory majority.

Note: To be clear I am not guaranteeing the UK approach will work either in the negotiating room or the ballot box. I am just trying to explain my view on the theory behind it.

Tweets posted on 28 February 2020 by @DmitryOpines.


Check their Voting Record:

🗳️ Theresa May

🗳️ Boris Johnson

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 29 February 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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