Wednesday 30th August
I know that it is the silly season for news, with Parliament on an extended Summer Break, and even the Trumpster relatively quiet after his recent diatribes. Hurricane Harvey is ploughing a furrow through Texas and Louisiana, and yet the climate change deniers will not blink an eye as we see images of people being rescued from rooftops and cars upturned. Mind you there has been scant reporting of the even worse devastation in India and Bangla-Desh – such is our Western view.
But there has been a little movement on Europe or the Great Brex-shit Nonsense. The Government has published a handful of ‘papers’, supposedly outlining their negotiating position in more detail. I haven’t read them, but most commentators agree that there is still too little flesh on the bones and they are more like wish-lists than serious statements. We still have no idea what sort of eventual trading relationship we will get in just 19 months time, although it has now been conceded that some sort of ‘transitional’ arrangement will have to be in place – but again we are no clearer on exactly what either this or the eventual deal will look like. Meanwhile Labour has at last come down off the fence. It sort-of worked during the election to say that Labour agreed with the Referendum result and that that would mean an end to the Single Market and free movement, but without committiing to any particular future deal. Except just like the Government Labour wanted the ‘best possible deal for jobs and trade’. Well, now they have stated that they are committed to a continuation of the Single Markey for a period maybe lasting up to four years.
So, slowly things are beginning to coalesce into a slightly softer Brexit. At least we have heard no more talk of ‘No Deal is better than a bad deal’. It looks as if we will have a ‘transitional period of between 2 and 4 years, during which I suspect that a proper trade deal will be negotiated. But unless we buckle and agree to being in the Single Market but not actually the EU, which I still doubt – there is no way we will get such an advantageous deal as we now have. And I suspect we will still be part of the customs union for several years to come – it is just too messy if not.
Meanwhile, Michel Barnier, the chief EU negotiator is complaining that the Government has still not made sufficient progress on the rights of citizens (which I would have thought was the easiest thing to achieve) or the border with Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, and of course the ‘Divorce Bill’ – or more correctly our agreed budget contributions up to 2020, and in a few cases beyond that.
Of course – anything might still happen. And when parliament re-convenes the hastily renamed bill to convert EU legislation into our law will begin. Expect a few rows and votes going this way or that. But none of us should forget – the clock is ticking….tick tock.