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Peter Foster @pmdfoster
, 20 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
So will there-won't there be a #brexit breakthrough summit in November?

Lot's of conflicting noise around. Firm predictions a mug's game.

So here's what I know, after chats with both sides 1/Thread
There are two opposing forces at work here:

On the positive side....a gathering political momentum for quick progress. This is shared jointly in London (which wants vote by Xmas) but also, EU sources say, by Tusk/Junker who are frankly bored with Brexit

But opposing this... /2
Is the equally audible notes of caution in last 24 hours from Barnier, Taoiseach Varadkar, Commission Hogan and others saying that the "betting" must be December.

At October EUCO there was also a sense from Macron/Merkel, I understand, that they could run to DEC.

There are two interpretations of this reticence on EU side....

a) a tactical move, dangling the carrot, sucking teeth, puffing cheeks to signal May needs to make deep concessions to win her November prize (you cd question tactics of No 10 has advertising its desperation)

Genuine concerns that by agreeing to build an all-UK customs arrangement into the Withdrawal Agreement, you open a new set of real problems....not just drafting work, but importing 'future' issues that were to be fixed when trade talks opened, into the here and now.../5
Take that all-UK 'bare bones' Customs Union...

Recall that for months @MichelBarnier and the Commission has said it was impossible/illegal.

Now they have been bounced into doing it, but Barnier still has same mandate to protect EU27 interests... /6
@MichelBarnier So let's recall quickly those structures.

Per sources, the legal and political advice (important in EU) that says Barnier can deliver CU in WA (ie under Article 50) is also clear on two points:

a) it must be as a 'bridge' to the future... /7…
@MichelBarnier It must also still protect EU interests, and so guarantee the UK isn't getting access to EU markets while been free to undercut EU businesses... recall the guidelines on this "level playing field" issue from March 2018, they are broad and tough. /8…
@MichelBarnier So now you start to see the problem.

For all that goodwill pushing one way, pushing back is the reality that hastily forcing big future relationship issues into the Withdrawal Agreement opens a Pandora's Box of new issues.

Take fish for one...

@MichelBarnier Doing a barebones customs union in the WA gives UK products quota-free and tariff-free access to EU markets.

So question (which everyone assumed would be part of future talks after Mar 2019) is the UK giving access to UK fishing grounds to EU fishing boats? /10
@MichelBarnier Spain, France, Denmark...they are all going to want an answer to that question, likely before they dash to a November summit.

And UK politicians, who have talked a big game on fish and 'taking back control' may not want to give an answer. /11
@MichelBarnier And what about that future?

If Article 50 is to be used as legal base for backstop and all-UK relationship, it needs to be a 'bridge' - to where? to what?

Again tough questions for Mrs May. Can she admit that it's not "Norway for Now", but really, "Backstop for Now".../12
@MichelBarnier Because is she can't - and we're entering this world nominally with an intention to quit at the earliest available opportunity - on what basis is the EU side constructing this 'backstop' that has a pretty fair chance of being used.../13
@MichelBarnier Unless we want to go back to transition extension question which I understand, though it has gone quiet, has not gone away.

And if we can get this deal, as @DavidDavisMP points out, what will the concessions be on level-playing field etc. They are likely to be pretty deep. /14
@MichelBarnier @DavidDavisMP So this is @theresa_may dilemma.

She's desperate for a deal, but to get one, she may have to make concessions that (while logically inevitable for months to anyone prepared to remove their blinkers) will not make this an easy sell in Westminster. /15
@MichelBarnier @DavidDavisMP @theresa_may We will know more after Friday's EU27 Ambassadors' meeting about the state of play, until then only a very select group of 'tunnelers' really know where we are. The circle is v v tight. I can't speculate on what I don't know.

So how does it play out?
@MichelBarnier @DavidDavisMP @theresa_may So one well-placed EU source doesn't discount the possibility that Mr Barnier peers into the Pandora's Box noted above, and just gets cold feet - decide it's too difficult and pushes the issue back to the Brits if they aren't prepared to make necessary concessions. /17
@MichelBarnier @DavidDavisMP @theresa_may Alternatively the UK makes enough concessions this week, and both sides use the pre-Christmas window to railroad it through both sides.

One old hand sees MS getting a 'skeleton' next week, capitals give comments, a full draft (pre-cooked as it was) is produced and.../18
@MichelBarnier @DavidDavisMP @theresa_may We head into an end of November summit, with a vote before Christmas before anyone has had too much time to politically unpick the deal.

Which of these will it be? Hate to disappoint, but I don't know. /19
@MichelBarnier @DavidDavisMP @theresa_may FWIW I hear more optimism from politicians than officials who can see the mountains that are still to be climbed.

Also FWIW, latest I hear on next UK cabinet is Tuesday.

If I had to bet, I'd say December. But happy to be wrong. 20/ENDS
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