Foreword by Tony Connelly

Oct 21, 2020

Tony Connelly, Europe Editor for RTÉ News shares his thoughts on the state of play in the Brexit negotiations.

The negotiations are delicately poised. On 15 October, EU leaders issued a communiqué that the talks should continue but put the onus on London to move on the key issues: fisheries, the level playing field and governance. That prompted a hostile response from Boris Johnson who said the UK should now prepare for No Deal, an outcome in which Britain would “prosper mightily.”

That was not the end of the story. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, signalled the door remained open. On Monday, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the EU was prepared to “intensify” the talks, on the basis of legal texts, the absence of which so far, the UK has complained about.

Still, Downing Street said the talks could only go on if the EU “fundamentally” changed its position. In Brussels, officials believe the UK will return to the table, but they question if Johnson has made up his mind about embracing a deal that is near, or holding out for one that is unlikely to materialise, torn between the short-term political pain, and how history will judge him.

On the deal that is near, the gaps are significant but not insurmountable. State aid and the level playing field are conceptually close; despite the rhetoric, the EU knows it will have to step back from the status quo in terms of access to UK waters and fish quotas. For businesses across the island of Ireland however, preparations for 1 January must continue. Politics must not triumph over process. 

The talking should continue, but Boris Johnson’s inner monologue has, perhaps, yet to conclude.