Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. Jan. 30, 2019 2 min read

There will be lots of complaints about EU refusing to engage with May on re-opening the Withdrawal Agreement - but here's why, as I understand it, after chats with both sides.

The first issue is that May can’t define “alternative arrangements” without exploding her majority.

Viewed from Brussels the Brady votes doesn’t send an “emphatic message”. It’s just the same old mess. /2

Brady is happy with a “codicil” (the interpretive statement the Brits tried and failed to get in Dec) but Boris, Baker and co are clearly not.

Hardline ERG want to ‘bin the backstop’ - which will not happen.

The point is the vote conceals a mess. /3

So to the second issue.

May lost by 230 votes last time. She will argue Brady shows she’s closing the gap...but to EU eyes that’s only by pandering rightwards and promising unicorns.

If the did give her something most of ERG would reject. Certainly enough to scupper deal. /4

So May is trapped.

As EU source tell me, she needs a “stable majority” not a “freak one”.

Her problem is that if she tries to argue all this is a “step in the right direction” the EU have little grounds to believe. /5

Because for a chunk of ERG, a “no deal” is what they want - 20? 30? 40? - they will never be satisfied.

All of which means? /6

That accessing that “five to midnight” space when a deal *might* be done (a backstop tweak on timing or exit mechanism) is still a long way off.

As one EU dip says “why confront something painful when it’s such a long way off?” /7

Instead expect EU to (politely) sit on their hands and wait for a durable consensus to emerge, probably after the Feb13/14 votes when no deal quite likely comes off the table.

Then the emphasis will (again) be on clarifying the PD. /8

That’s two weeks away.

Unless there is movement in Westminster it’s hard to see how it moves. Or why the EU would give May something doomed to fail (and have her come back for more).

No. Talk, sure, but wait and watch I suspect will be the game. /10

We’ll know more after EU ambos meet today. 11/ends

You can follow @pmdfoster.


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