Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. Aug. 06, 2019 3 min read

We are in a tedious game of #Brexit 'he said, she said' now.

@michaelgove is professing upset that the EU will not negotiate.

The @EU_Commission says it is happy to talk any time.

But both on their own terms 1/

The UK wants to strain every sinew to get a deal, but only if the EU agrees to 'bin the backstop'

The EU wants a deal too, but only if the UK accepts needs for a coherent solution to Irish border, and a backstop til then. /2

Neither side is being especially sincere at the moment.

The @BorisJohnson government has taken a deliberate decision NOT to engage the EU on anything close to what might be a negotiable deal. Overtures were made. They were rebuffed in favour of 'bin the backstop' /3

So a bit rich for @michaelgove to be weeping crocodile tears over the EU "intransigence".

If you were cynical, you might think that this is just blame-game strategy.

Gove needs to be SEEN to be trying. There is not actual intent on a deal /4

But equally, you could argue the EU asked for this by consistently refusing to re-open the Withdrawal Agreement - when everyone suspects, push come to shove, 1 minute to midnight - that the EU *would* move on, say time-limiting the Irish backstop, IF it delivered a deal/5

The question now is if that deal space is remotely accessible.

And if it was, would it go through Parliament.

Could the ERG 'spartans' say 'no' if a Boris cabinet backed it at 11th hour? /6

Or is all that - as I'm widely counselled by insiders on both sides - an academic question now, if all possible/relevant concessions are pre-determined insufficient?

Is the real question, given Johnson govt intent to go headlong to a 'no deal', whether Parliament can stop him?/7

Lots of fighting talk from No 10, but @BorisJohnson leads a minorty govt with a majority of one....against a Parliament with clear majority against a 'no deal'. Not saying it's easy, but the odds & the constitutional conventions must point to Parliament winning out. /8

But to answer these questions, we seem to have reached yet another Brexit 'phoney war'; lots of bravado but not so clear how everyone behaves when the hot metal is flying - currency markets & supermarkets in October panic. /9

For now, it is just willy-waving and blame-gaming.

No serious or detailed preparations for a new negotiation.

There had been some talk that at this stage we'd be busy renegotiation the Political Declaration to rule out a Customs Union. Not happened. /10

The issue now is that for talks to start, both sides will need to climb down.

Johnson from his 'bin the backstop' position.

The EU from it's no re-opening the Withdrawal Agreement. /11

Not immediately clear to me what the mechanism for that happening is.

Since Johnson Govt isn't apparently daring to test in Parliament what might move the deal.

And without that, why would the EU get off their sunloungers? /12

It's still early days, of course, but all signs point to more stand-off to come, and a ferociously bumpy autumn.

I am shortly about to take my own advice: take a holiday while you can. /13ENDS

You can follow @pmdfoster.


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