Brexit. UK-EU talks. Let's try to explain why we're in such a state, of increased risk of no deal, moving away from the fish and playing fields which are the detail but not the answer, to differing philosophies and divorce parallels that might just help... 1/
First, with apologies to those concerned, we need to go beyond those saying this is the inevitable path to deal / no-deal. Half of them will be right and I'll definitely be wrong (don't worry, I'm hedged in wine bets), but it wasn't inevitable, typical, or necessary. 2/
I'll also ignore the content of any deal, which has been clear for months, the UK compromises on level playing field, the EU on fish. Something so obvious really isn't the fundamental issue. Could, as some not noted for their perspicacity have said, be done in an afternoon. 3/
Some truth in the idea that flounces and playing the tough cop are a part of trade negotiations. But equally as we're in about the 5th pass of these, I think it has ceased to be helpful. Either side could already have cut the deal having shown their toughness. 4/
Some fundamentals then, that we've forgotten. First, the trade deal that will lead to much less free trade than before. The incentive structures, the ability to create a win-win, are inevitably going to be different to a normal deal. 5/
Next, trade deals are a closer binding based on trust, they may not even seem to provide much greater access than WTO, but are a symbol of both sides intention to work together. Both parties accept the rules as part of the trust. To put it mildly, absent between UK and EU. 6/
Next, UK oscillation on preferred outcome (a mild preference for a deal) compared to the EU as a process driven trade negotiating machinery, which assumes both siudes want a deal that can be done. I think this contrast explains a lot of friction. 7/
Odd one, but UK treaty literalism versus EU agreement concepts. Not that the EU don't want good treaty text, but in operation it is the framework for what happens, not the last word. Whereas the UK seem to be concerned about exact text pinning us down. 8/
I'm afraid the approach of the UK government to the Northern Ireland protocol, leading to the Internal Market Bill, has shown the problem of the selective literal reading. Instead of assuming we can suitably fudge operations we are trying to pin down exact meanings. 9/
Perhaps most of all we need to be thinking of post divorce emotions. An EU wanting to go through a careful process to arrange all the details. The UK wanting it all over as quickly as possible, with as few future constraints as possible to show it really is all over. 10/
Yesterday's PM letter a classic emotional outburst you could imagine in a divorce situation, sort of "I have done everything you asked and you are still not being in any way fair so I am going to go my own way and I will be fine and I really don't need you" etc... 11/
The EU cannot I would suggest deal with such UK emotions except by reverting to process, which probably isn't very helpful. But the UK is so emotional that it is struggling to accept that the EU really does have the right to request some rules for the future. 12/
So should the UK and EU abandon the trade talks and go for intensive divorcing couples therapy instead? Given peacekeepers in international diplomacy tend to be associated with ending wars we probably don't want to go there. 13/
However if the problem is more about significant differences in philosophy that led to the divorce in the first place, then the answer probably isn't just to have another conversation about fish. Or another row. It is going to be something different. 14/
Last year we had Leo Varadkar sweet-talking Boris Johnson, the main difference to now being that there was only one real issue to resolve, and both parties had strong grounds for an agreement. Result, deal. Not sure it could work again. 15/
Ultimately what we seem to need is the UK to be reassured the EU doesn't want to set our rules, and the EU to be reassured that the UK isn't going to cheat. And that won't come in the text, it can't. Because these are the deep seated fears with truth in them. 16/
I don't know how you provide these levels of assurance in a couple of weeks, sufficient to overcome the not insignificant challenges of a UK government overturning planned legislation and the European Parliament approving a deal. But that is what is needed. 17/
Right now if the UK and EU signed a trade deal it wouldn't last. You couldn't insulate it against mutual suspicion. At the same time no deal increases the mutual suspicion and is costly for both sides, and let's not get into who bleeds more, pointless conversation. 18/
So as far as I can see it is 2 weeks for the UK and EU, or frankly someone else they trust if there is anyone, to find a new way to communicate. Actually Johnson was right, this is the end of the road without change. But wrong, as it needs both sides. Over to... someone? 19/ end

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More from @DavidHenigUK

19 Oct
Even church leaders are not immune from the Brexit cult that accuses those who with a different opinion of being divisive (and quite often, though not in this case, unpatriotic traitors).… Image
The relationship between a centralising government which struggles to deal with anyone else (e.g. Manchester, Scotland, London, the EU), and the pure Brexit cult for whom nothing (church, international law, economy) comes before hostility to the EU, is a dangerous one indeed.
A good example of the kind of nonsense currently coming from the pure Brexit cult (who let us recall right now want to break the Withdrawal Agreement and start a trade war with the EU). Encouraged by the UK government blaming the EU.
Read 7 tweets
18 Oct
Wise. The idea that it is necessary to firm up domestic support by insulting the other side of a negotiation is being heavily overhyped in the Brexit debate. Just as likely you talk yourself out of a possible deal. Image
Goes alongside the most often stated fact about trade talks, that it is either overhyped at outright wrong, that the EU or anyone else only does trade deals at the last minute. For which there is no evidence however often it is repeated as fact.
There's a role in trade talks for showing toughness, as there is for deadlines. In moderation. Ultimately it is about the red lines of both sides. Plus the surrounding mood music. And we still don't know in the case of UK-EU, because we don't know where UK red lines are.
Read 4 tweets
18 Oct
True. Which leads to the bigger political problem. If you imagine all that border friction at Dover, how do you think it is avoided on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland? Answer, as we know, is that a deal doesn't remove that issue.
There's also a second political issue, which is the anticipation that a deal leads to further smaller deals to ease border controls. Which is exactly what the Brexit ultras will fear about a deal, a gradual return to the EU's orbit.
I don't think most of the Brexit commentary understands that there is a set of UK decisions approaching in which some will lose out (deja vu for the DUP perhaps). So we need to ask who they are going to be. The ERG? Business?
Read 4 tweets
18 Oct
Always a very powerful argument to claim that your neighbours or some other country want to restrict you. Also happens to be a line particularly popular with paranoid dictatorships. And a discouragement to business or said neighbouring countries to deal with you. Image
Maybe at some stage the government could be asked, who wants to control us more, the EU wanting us to sign up for level playing field conditions, or the US wanting us to sign up for food rules (and by the way level playing field conditions).
Another question for government - in what exact ways do the EU want us to forfeit our independence? How do these differ from, for example, WTO rules? And what rules are we prepared to sign up for?
Read 9 tweets
16 Oct
A letter from the PM on the EU talks which is confused, exaggerated, and internally contradictory. There could be no possible basis for a trade deal if the letter was to be taken seriously.
The EU-Canada agreement is not based on "friendship and free-trade" but is absolutely full of conditionality. I've clipped a random bit of text, but frankly there are dozens of similar examples.
"They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom".

Distortion / exaggeration. All trade treaties involve a restriction of legislative freedom. You might as well say the same about other members of the WTO.
Read 9 tweets
16 Oct
Worth noting as we play future scenarios, that no trade deal is probably not a stable UK EU end state as it will mean more such demands to denounce the Withdrawal Agreement.
Anyway, the deal available to the UK (and EU) is more or less as we've known since June, and not technically difficult. The politics and choreography horrendous. We wait to see what the coming days bring.

In the mean time, at least tonight, 🍷
Ah, this is not what happens in the run up to a deal
Read 4 tweets

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