Jonathan Lis Profile picture
Nov 6, 2017 37 tweets 4 min read
Back from meetings in Brussels. There's good news and bad news. First, the bad news. Because it's... extremely bad. 1/
2/ While consensus in London seems to assume trade talks kick off in December, senior EU officials now consider this, on balance, unlikely
3/ Brussels monitors UK media & ministers' statements - they can see PM has been backtracking since Florence - ie backtracking to cliff-edge
4/ Behind the scenes, also evidence that UK has reneged on guarantees for citizens that it initially signalled it would make. Really bad.
5/ As for money, if May insists she can't make any further commitments, EU will not trigger trade talks in December. It's that simple.
6/ EU went as far as it could in Oct. Nobody's asking for precise figure, just specific commitments. €60bn the ballpark figure.
7/ UK Government knows all this, incidentally. They're in denial about it. But what happens if they test EU anyway?
8/ If no agreement in Dec, next opportunity to kick-start talks is in March. That leaves *7 months* to agree deal. They can't, and won't.
9/ All of this means, we're heading for crisis (and economic shock) very soon - December or January - unless UK comes to its senses.
10/ EU fears May, when rebuffed in Dec through her instransigence, will retreat to comforting insanity of Redwood/Mogg Brexit utopia. BAD.
11/ So senior EU officials now putting chances of no-deal at over 50%, and making detailed impact assessments about what it means for EU
12/ EU officials don't think UK Gov working in national interest; worse, believe May & Davis don't understand process, or what no-deal means
13/ EU unsure whether civil servants not telling ministers truth, or if ministers just aren't listening- but UK incompetence is mystifying
14/ One official agreed that Davis's recent remark on negotiations going down to wire, after EU Parl't vote, was lunacy. EP vote is final.
15/ Which brings us to the centrality of the misunderstanding. Brexit is a political, but far more importantly, a legal process.
16/ Article 50 rules must be obeyed. Which means, everything must be agreed by European Parliament. And that means, *everything*.
17/ So when Davis says that we'll have a basic deal, on eg aviation, but without things we want, that must also be approved by EU Parl't.
18/ And here's the thing: it won't happen. EU conditions for deal are € above all else: if UK refuses to pay everything, no deal on anything
19/ If UK planning to leave hole in EU budget, forget about 'deal no deal', 'basic deal', or 'orderly no deal'. No deal means no deal.
20/ That means no aviation, drastically curbed radiotherapy. No transfer of nuclear material unless UK's undergone exhaustive IAEA process
21/ EU thinks UK won't easily be able to resurrect old aviation treaties, and a new one will take 2 years. This also requires goodwill.
22/ EU also fears Gov won't walk away, but just let clock tick - a no-deal by accident or incapacity. Followed by 'bloody unreasonable EU'.
23/ EU also not concerned about its own unity - in a crisis, officials think member states will rally round, not peel off. Unlike in UK.
24/ This, regrettably, is not the only bad news.

Let's assume UK does come to its senses before December summit, and talks progress.
25/ As Barnier's made clear, there's no bespoke transition. That means we have to stay in EEA, and to make that seamless, apply to join EFTA
26/ EFTA officials confident UK could apply to join EFTA quite quickly & provisionally apply agreement for Mar 19, seamlessly staying in EEA
27/ This, provided Norway & Iceland happy to let UK in for transitional period. But they would be under great pressure to allow it.
28/ Might even be possible for UK to negotiate 'associate' EFTA status so doesn't have to apply to join EFTA's trade deals (big concession)
29/ Only... Northern Ireland is ruined, because off-shelf EEA agreement excludes agriculture. Which means full WTO tariffs. No ifs, no buts.
30/ EEA Agreement Article 19 provides framework for agri liberalisation- but needs to be negotiated from scratch. Norway's deal took 2yrs.
31/ So Davis was right to say, last Tuesday, that new tariffs would be 'a real problem' for NI. It's a problem he's determined to make real.
32/ So, I hear you ask, where's the good news?

Easy. If UK wants to extend A50, or revoke it, just say magic word. Even at last minute.
33/ Can negotiate new aviation treaty, new agri provisions to top up EEA, or a new trade deal, while comfortably still in EU.
34/ Senior officials describe difficulty of UK participating in EU elections as 'lowest priority'. Avoiding cliff-edge much more important.
35/ EU doubts PM has authority to pull this off. Easier for her to drag us off cliff than show humility/common sense. But there's still time
36/ It's not too late to see this cliff-edge & prevent what's otherwise an unavoidable catastrophe. All they need to do is open their eyes.
37/ That was the news. If anyone's friends with Theresa or David, please let them know.

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More from @jonlis1

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