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Peter Foster @pmdfoster
, 16 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
So Theresa May arrives at EU summit and, like a dream sequence, repeats that "considerable progress" has been made since Salzburg but "problems remain on Northern Ireland backstop".

So what can we say back in the real world? /1
UK Negotiators just spent nine days straight reaching about as far as they can go on #Brexit fudges.

In summary, the EU will NOT give the UK an all-UK customs backstop. But it WILL agree to an all-UK customs arrangement in the future relationship document.

This didn't fly./2
When @MichelBarnier addresses EU leaders tonight, he will have to give an honest assessment of whether more talks can really move this on - in the absence of "new facts" as @eucopresident Donald Tusk put it.

Hard to see how - at which point the ball may be back in May's court /3
@MichelBarnier @eucopresident Because for all the 'tinkering' some very fundamental facts aren't going to change on the EU side.

The backstop will have to remain, it will not be time-limited.

You can dress it/wrap it up with 'review clauses' etc but it's still the backstop.

On that point... /4
@MichelBarnier @eucopresident The reason the EU won't agree to an all-UK customs arrangement in the backstop, say officials, is practical as much as political.

This deal needs to be done in a matter of weeks, and the EU cannot do something that complex and far-reaching in that timeframe. No way. /5
And when/if the EU does to a Customs Union negotiation, they are going to want to have a bunch of 'level playing-field' controls that will make that a tricky negotiation.

It's worth remember that the EU, having always said UK can have a CU, is now facing reality of that. /6
The EU leaders will be very cautious that this 'temporary' customs union doesn't end up being a backdoor to a cherry-picked world.

So where does that leave Ireland? And the political issue of passing the backstop? (agonisingly, like some kidney stone) /7
Essentially finding ways to build up assurances that it won't be needed.

Hence the extra offer of another year of transition, which makes it more certain that this temporary Customs Union is up and running, so the backstop isn't needed. /8
In that world, the UK could also align on regulations to the same degree as Northern Ireland, to ensure that it is not "treated differently" from the rest of the UK - until something comes along technologically that allows a new arrangement to come up. /9
Of course, that could look very like "Single Market and CU" - ie not leaving - but it might also look something like Chequers in the very long run.

But how to access that space, given the state of UK politics? /10
The idea you hear in Brussels most often is that she 'plays it long', has everyone stare into the abyss, and then these fudges n fixes start to look a mite more appealing than they do now to the clean-break brexiteers/DUP.

But there is a counter-narrative to that... /11
Which is that by the time December comes, the 'betrayal' narrative will be so entrenched, it becomes political suicide for May to do the deal - even if she can smuggle it through Parliament with Labour votes.

We saw the Chequers backlash, what would this be? /12
In that world, does there come a point where a managed 'no deal' makes political sense?

Already May/Hammond are saying UK would honour its commitments and pay the bill.

Then the EU would have to decide which version of its 'no deal' plan to implement. /13
Not arguing this as a 'likely' outcome, but raising the idea that a world emerges where 'no deal' preparations take on a self-fulfilling dynamic as the politics deteriorates.

Still, we're a ways off that point now. First we wait and see how Barnier plays it... /14
Will he want to keep talking, for the sake of?

Or put turn it back to May: make a move, or we'll see you in December? 15/ENDS
PS...apols for slightly disjointed thread. Too many distractions at #EUCO. People keep coming by.
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