, 20 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
So seems point 1 is an extension/elucidation of what @DLidington told #r4today on Dec 14.

FWIW am told by Brussels sources this is now focus of UK 'ask' on reassurances/ clarifications. To set clear aspiration date for trade deal to avoid backstop /1

@DLidington Which as @DavidHenigUK quickly pointed out is, to put it mildly, ambitious. /2

@DLidington @DavidHenigUK This is not least because even if you think a 'quick and dirty' deal is doable on some aspects (you hear some discussion of this) the UK would STILL need to know what it wanted.

And as the Political Declaration makes painfully clear, it doesn't know. Or cannot agree rather. /3
So imagine, its the Monday after Brexit (April Fools day no less) and the two trade teams sit down for opening talks.

Leave aside that the Juncker Commission is months from expiry, @WeyandSabine of DG Trade (for it is she) asks what UK wants? There is a pause

Err..... /4
Do we want to be in a Customs Union?

Do we want to set up a (time-consuming) unicorn hunting group to find see if tech fixes can work on the Irish border?


Same old question. Same old non-answers, very likely.

Which brings us to the nub..../5
Let's not forget what we are trying to do here.

Get a divorce deal done (settle accounts, grandfather citizens rights, guarantee no return to hard border), so we can cut ourselves some more slack to work out what we DO want.

The next cliff approaches.../6
Which is why the ERG/DUP focus on the Irish backstop as a 'trap' and an 'affront to sovereignty' is a massive red-herring.

It's a political pivot away from the old core question: what do you want?

A customs union or a customs border in the Irish Sea? Or unicorn hunt. /7
Of course underlying THAT question about Customs Union membership is a much more fundamental question about the entire Brexiteer trading narrative, which is a relatively new addition to Euroscepticism.

Talk to the dreaded experts and it really doesn't add up. /8
This remains the real debate we've never properly had - new trade deals with Anglosphere + BRIICS made possible by quitting EU trade world don't come close to off-setting costs to existing EU trade = 43% of UK exports. /9
But @bernardjenkin is still on @BBCr4today
saying our trade with the rest of the world is growing much faster. Indeed. But of a TINY base, relatively speaking. Lots of per cent more of not very much is...not very much. Give my strength /10
@bernardjenkin @BBCr4today But even at this late stage the #Brexit debate is still stuck (on both sides) in a world of denials and half-truths. Hard remainers still want to reverse the vote; hard Leavers cleave to a Brexit that doesn't add up. The middle is lost.

Which brings us to where we are now./11
@bernardjenkin @BBCr4today It seems to me that the next few weeks and months will be an acid test of whether the UK can still walk the middle path.

To do this, both of the hard wings must accept that they cannot have a 'winner takes all' outcome.

Think of it like conflict resolution. /12
Both must accept they will lose something.

1) Ultra-remainers need to accep #Brexit will happen. There was a vote. Reversing it risk undermining the foundations of our democracy

2) Ultra-leavers need to accept Brexit requires trade-offs. Sovereignty is no longer absolute /13
And it seems to me that May's deal, hewn by gravity not strategy, is a middle path.

It says to hard Brexit folk, "we need to stay in a Customs Union", but we get lots of other autonomy (particularly on free movement).

And to remainers, we are leaving the Single Market and EU/14
Both will find these bitter pills to swallow...which is usually the sign of a good compromise

But as they consider this, they must consider the alternatives:

- a massively divisive second referendum (if you thought the last one was nasty!)

- a General Election that risks splitting both parties and fixing nothing as far as Parliamentary arithmetic goes

- a 'no deal' Brexit that would be hugely costly and NOT change the questions noted above. You'd still need a deal, just negotiated on our knees.

- or a flop to a full Norway+Customs Union deal advocated by @NickBoles which for my money falls the wrong side of what could fairly be called a compromise /17

@NickBoles Is it too late to take the middle road? To move into transition and deliver Brexit while creating space to have a more rational, numbers-based discussion on our trade choices?

I hope not. We need the first vote next week. We need to get close to the cliff.../18
...peer over, probably call for an extension of Article 50 and then, as we collectively realise the Good Ship Britain is not unsinkable, man the lifeboat that looks, I suspect, something like May's deal.

But no-one should be complacent./19
Serious people I know, who aren't in the political game, now think 'no deal' outcome is under-priced.

Happy New Year everyone. It's gonna be big one. 20/ENDS
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