Some thoughts about the holes in the ‘cunning plan’ view of Number 10 for the UK-EU negotiations.

First published in March 2020.

I have been turning this over all day.

Why the government may be seeking an early acrimonious break-up of talks it can blame on the EU. / PMP

It makes sense (to pursue a no-deal Brexit), but only if you neglect where it leaves you.

This has two parts: internal and external.

Internally, you might well be able to lay blame at the EU’s feet, but it doesn’t change that you are still in a rubbish situation, and one that you claim not to have wanted.

Therefore you now have to still get on with building a situation that you do want, which will almost certainly involve an agreement of some kind. And there is no good reason to think the EU would have softened its stance.

Either you managed to drop them in it (so they’ll be even more cautious), or (much more likely) they’ll argue you’ve been a shit (and they’ll still be more cautious).

In both cases, you’re stuck.

Externally (to UK-EU), collapse of this process does not help UK getting new deals with third countries, especially those that haven’t bought your line (i.e. all of them).

This point was well made on the current episode of Tony Connelly’s Brexit Republic podcast: it is not at all a good look to be failing to follow through on your international commitments, especially if you want to take on more of those commitments with others.

So yes, the UK Government might well see scope to set this up for a crash, but that’s at best a passing ‘win’, which doesn’t even lock in the outcome.

As an aside, I’d also note the absence of planning for either no-deal or even the limited Free Trade Agreement which makes it even harder to defend the sincerity of your actions.

All of which takes me to a more parsimonious explanation: Number 10 is making this up as they go along.🔷

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 5 March 2020, with the author’s consent, 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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(Cover: Flickr/Number 10/Andrew Parsons. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)