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Jennifer Rankin @JenniferMerode
, 12 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
Where do Brexit talks stand with only 149 days to go - thread ⏰
2. Olly Robbins is back in Brussels meeting Sabine Weyand, but can over read significance of this. The pair are in constant contact. Lower-level meetings have taken place.
3. This gives rise to a very Brussels debate. Did the tunnel end last month with Dominic Raab’s visit? Or did the Brexit negotiators never really leave it

Consensus has settled on idea that British negotiators can leave Brussels, but stay in the tunnel.
4. The EU is pressing ahead with no-deal planning: the commission’s seminars will resume mid November on no-deal preparedness, covering citizens’ rights, aviation, ground transport, customs, border controls and financial services. Not exclusive list.
5. That doesn’t mean either side has given up on a November summit. EU diplomats more relaxed about timing, but some see growing risk of sliding into accidental no-deal, if UK parliament votes down the deal.
6. Do fears of no-deal change EU’s position? Not a bit. EU diplomats expect UK to move on Irish backstop, the last major sticking point.
7. Don’t expect German chancellor Angela Merkel to ride to the rescue, is point made by several diplomatic sources. Often-heard view is that UK often misreads German politics, perhaps helped by chancellor’s sometimes ambiguous statements.
8. EU and UK have discussed all-UK customs arrangements for the future and extending transition, but EU does not see these as alternatives to the backstop. It's “and” not “or”.
9. Some EU sources think little progress has been made since March on the Irish backstop, although also said Commission's first version was too stark, hence “dedramatisation”.
10. Barnier told EU leaders earlier this month not to expect progress until December, which leaves very little time for UK parliamentary ratification.

UK wants a deal in the autumn. Autumn can be a very long season in Brussels.
11. What about extending article 50? Sadiq Khan and Vince Cable want EU to make contingency plans. EU diplomats say issue has never been discussed (formally). Because first the UK has to ask.
12. European elections mean A50 extension greater than 7-8 weeks gets into very difficult legal and political waters. The UK would have to take part in elex - no one can imagine British electing MEPs.

With <150 days to go, every move for UK gov has serious downsides.
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