There is no prospect of a deal being agreed between Britain and the EU before 31 October; any deal has to be agreed by the UK Parliament, the Council and the European Parliament, and there simply isn’t time. That leaves only two options: delay or no deal.
It is easy to see the faults of the British governments, but the failures of EU diplomacy are just as strong. The British position has been arrived at through a series of blunders:
- giving notice without even having developed a negotiating position;
- treating the negotiation as a question of government prerogative, rather than something subject to parliamentary scrutiny;
- failing to engage all interested parties, and especially the political opposition;
- establishing ‘red lines’ on immigration and trade relationships that were not part of or integral to the referendum decision
- after the rejection of the proposed withdrawal agreement, failing to develop any other position for several months.
The problems created by the European Union, however, are no less important. They include
- specifying a two-stage process, when there was no time in the negotiating period to cover both stages;
- insisting, in consequence, on a ‘backstop’ arrangement which could only have been removed by the resolution of the second stage;
- treating the Withdrawal Agreement as if was a treaty that had been agreed, after it had been manifestly rejected;
- refusing, despite its treaty obligations, to provide a position on the future relationship;
- refusing to consider any arrangement when trading with the UK as a third party, that would not apply to all goods and services – anything else was dismissed as ‘cherry picking’, when selection is in the nature of all negotiated settlements; and
- failing to take any action relating to its declared priority – or ‘red line’ – of protecting European citizens.
The result is a shambles. Neither party can hope to come out of this with any of the outcomes they wanted to achieve.