Boris blinks, Brussels breezes blithely on, Brexit blows in the wind
The PM backtracks on today's deadline of 15 October for EU trade deal
© Brexit Facts4EU.Org 2020
This is a national disgrace
There’s a reason it’s called a deadline. Cross the line and you’re dead – metaphorically at least. Today, 15 October 2020, the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, is doing just that.
Today is the deadline the PM set for a trade deal with the EU. To quote him directly: “If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.”
Yesterday all that changed. A Number 10 spokesperson said that the Prime Minister would “take a decision on next steps following the European Council, in light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team”.
Yet here is the official statement from the Prime Minister as recently as 07 September 2020
© No.10 Downing Street
“We are now entering the final phase of our negotiations with the EU.
“The EU have been very clear about the timetable. I am too. There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on 15 October if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year. So there is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point. If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.
“We will then have a trading arrangement with the EU like Australia’s. I want to be absolutely clear that, as we have said right from the start, that would be a good outcome for the UK. As a Government we are preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it. We will have full control over our laws, our rules, and our fishing waters. We will have the freedom to do trade deals with every country in the world. And we will prosper mightily as a result.”
And here are two EU statements yesterday
Took stock of negotiations with 🇬🇧 in a call with @BorisJohnson, together with @eucopresident.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) October 14, 2020
The EU is working on a deal, but not at any price. Conditions must be right, on fisheries, level-playing field and governance.
Still a lot of work ahead of us.
Some days ago the Prime Minister started talking about the deadline being for the “outline of a deal”. There isn’t even that. Sources in Brussels are now talking about going into November before the outline of a deal might be agreed.
Boris blinked. You do not do that in negotiations or you are finished. They are now laughing in Brussels.
There’s an old adage: “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” If you set a deadline, stick to it. If you set red lines, stick to them.
Regrettably Boris Johnson now has a firm track record in backsliding on his commitments towards Brexit. He committed to leaving the EU by 31 October. He failed, albeit with a Remainer Parliament. He then committed to moving to trading on WTO terms if negotiations for a free trade deal had not been completed by the end of June. He backtracked. Then it was the end of July. He backtracked again. Then it was 15 October. And he has failed again.
Little wonder that the EU officials in Brussels have never taken his words seriously.
Yesterday on social media Brexit Facts4EU.Org conducted a poll. We asked: "If Boris extends his deadline to the EU tomorrow, whether you want a deal or no deal, how will you feel?" Given the choice between "Content" and "Betrayed", 90.5% of responders answered "Betrayed".
We can't go on like this
Any serious observer of EU politics over the years knows that negotiations in Brussels always go to the wire – and in many cases they go into the early hours after the wire has been crossed.
The point here is that people and businesses have to plan their lives around the final outcome of these talks. Four and a half years is long enough. This is not something that can be left until midnight on 31 December - or even next month. We have just 78 days (11 weeks) until the UK leaves the Single Market and Customs Union. For many people and businesses even that time is not time enough.
Boris Johnson unilaterally put a line in the sand and made mid-October the date by which the UK would proceed on a WTO basis if an agreement with the EU had not been reached.
Sadly it appears that Boris’s line was drawn in quicksand.
Let’s be clear. Were it not for COVID, today’s headlines would have slammed the Prime Minister for his weakness and vacillation and for making the UK look like the supplicant in a master-servant relationship.
We must call it as it is. This is a national disgrace.
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[ Sources: No.10 | EU Council | EU Commission ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.
Brexit Facts4EU.Org, Thur 15 Oct 2020
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