, 17 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
So. A quick gut of the Juncker #brexit letter.

Shorter: not a game-change as expected, but SOME new stuff that might influence waverers. 1/Thread
First up - the Withdrawal Agreement isn't getting reopened. That's still the line, see second para in letter, which is here /2

Then repeats December European Council conclusions which (as May said to House) do themselves have legal force - all that good stuff about "expeditiously" concluding a trade deal etc.

(Leave aside for now UK doesn't know what deal it wants) /3
Then (as first reported here last week) does say that the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration can be in Official Journal to give it soft legal force (and therefore legally commit EU to not wanting backstop).

Again, this already said in December concs, but /4
The EU also commits to starting trade talk as soon as Parliament ratifies.

This is from December, BUT it is useful - UK officials can clear bureaucratic decks ahead of April 1 (boring stuff about meeting schedules etc)

Small thing - and of course you STILL NEED A PLAN! /5
The Commission also agrees to provisionally apply any deal - so no need to wait for the Walloons! But this in theory means you'd be less likely to use backstop.

(Of course - did I say this already? - you still need a plan to get to a deal) /6
The EU then backs the UK govt paper from last week intended reassurances to the DUP and others on the limits of backstop vis-a-vis Good Friday Agreement, North-South co-ope etc. /7
Now onto the backstop, where there seems to be some kind of shift on the EU side - a greater openness to other solutions/technologies. (we'll come back to this at the end of the thread) /8
Then this interesting sentence, which says that the backstop does NOT have to be the template for the future.

This seems to be shift from PD, which talks about 'building on'...the door is wider open here. /9
Lastly, lots of talk about "very rapidly" and redoubling efforts to get it done etc.

But you gotta have a pl....ah, I think I said that already. /10
So in summary?

As May will admit, this stuff doesn't clear the DUP/ERG hurdle for having unilateral exit clause on backstop etc.

But it does make clear EU doesn't love the backstop, wants a deal and fast.

The constraint, ultimately, is on the UK side /11
The Commission DOES seem to be more open to unicorn hunting - and this fits with noises that I and others (@BrunoBrussels @Mij_Europe @DanielBoffey ) have been hearing of late.

The question is still whether those unicorns exist. /12
@BrunoBrussels @Mij_Europe @DanielBoffey It may be that the Commission and some EU member states have a more flexible (or unrealistic) view of what is possible to do in Northern Ireland back from the border.

Recall that the 2017 scoping process that led to the Joint Report wasn't encouraging in this regard /13
@BrunoBrussels @Mij_Europe @DanielBoffey But it signals a willingness to have a go - and to maybe rethink/reframe the parameters on which the backstop is based.

How this survives contact with reality remains to be seen - recall UK paper required 80% exemptions on trade to even begin to work. /14
@BrunoBrussels @Mij_Europe @DanielBoffey How flexible the EU will really be, when that stuff comes back up, I'm not sure.

There will be those who still think the long term most sustainable relationship is 'Canada' with checks in Irish Sea.

Lots of MS don't see truculent UK working in CU or NorwayPlus. /15
@BrunoBrussels @Mij_Europe @DanielBoffey It also leaves open the door to a close UK-EU relationship - which would cut down the size of lots of the hurdles on solving Irish border question.

So if UK did align more closely, seek a permanent customs union, then MAYBE other fixes come into play. /16
@BrunoBrussels @Mij_Europe @DanielBoffey But still, you could see this letter hinting at growing misgivings in Brussels and beyond over actual workability of the backstop - there is something for thoughtful Brexiteers to chew on here.

But for millionth time, for anything to work, the UK side NEEDS A PLAN

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