Question of the Day: Bad Deal on Fish or No Deal on Fish?
Deal This Friday?
That's the question Eurointelligence is pondering.
Whispers are that a UK/EU deal is around the corner. BBC Newsnight reports that the UK government is preparing for Brexit-related legislation next week. Tom Newton Dunn, of the Sun newspaper, writes that a meeting or phone call between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen is being set up for later in the week. In both cases, the journalists made the inference that a deal is about to be agreed. While we think this remains the most likely scenario in the end, those two specific events serve other purposes. Deal or no deal, the government will need to reserve parliamentary time for the ratification of Brexit-related legislation. Also remember that British journalists tend to be confused about the various people in the EU. We doubt very much that Johnson would call von der Leyen to negotiate fish.
What we know is that the negotiators are making slow progress on the disputed areas, but they have not resolved them. The compromise has yet to happen. The UK media are speculating that the final deal will include a 10-year transition on fish, followed by a renegotiation. If so, that would be close to a 100% victory for France and a total UK climbdown from the position it held. We saw a letter written by Michael Gove to Nicola Sturgeon, complaining that the Scottish government interfered in the negotiations to the detriment of the UK's position. This is no doubt a preparation for a blame game. But there are two possibilities. Gove may be preparing the ground to blame Sturgeon for a bad deal on fish, or for no deal on fish.
Our working assumption is that Johnson will try to string this out to the last moment, extract as many concessions as he can, and then go for a deal. Yesterday's news of the success of the Oxford vaccine has given Johnson a rare reprieve and a reason to celebrate. He announced yesterday the lifting the national lockdown from December 2, at which point the country will revert to the three-tier system. We know that Johnson is keen to move on. The combination of a vaccine and a Brexit deal would allow him to do so. A no-deal Brexit would prolong uncertainty, and might turn the incipient but not yet serious rebellion against him into something bigger.
On the other hand, he also knows that a perceived climbdown on Brexit could backfire. Pro-Brexit positions have won the day over the last five years. We think the balance of the arguments supports a deal, but the outcome is more finely balanced than some of the latest reports suggest. The deal has yet to be agreed.
Deal or No Deal
We are finally near the legal point at at which there either has to be a deal or not.
It was pure silliness to expect any deal before now. It was also silly to believe any soft (non-legal) deadlines mattered.
There is never a deal involving the EU until the last minute if not second. Many post-Brexit deadlines have come and gone like the tides.
June 30, was the drop dead date for the UK to request an extension, but I am not even sure about that even still.
Where's there's an EU there's always a hat and a rabbit.
Trick or Treat?
Boris Johnson set a deadline of September then Halloween.
Even if this deal seemingly falls apart this week, rest assured, there's always next week.
Hats and Rabbits
The post-brexit actual deadline is December 31. The true deadline might be a bit before Dec 31 given the need for UK parliamentary approval and EU parliamentary approval.
In addition, every nation in the EU would have to agree to the deal and that sounds like mission impossible.
This is where hats and rabbits come in.
The EU's top negotiator, Michael Barnier has within his power to go for a bares bones deal that would not require every country in the EU to sign off.
What I Expect
- Johnson will offer some fish tails.
- The EU will demand the whole fish.
- Johnson will offer fish heads and tails and if necessary, fish livers.
- Nigel Farage will complain no matter what part of the fish the EU gets.
Heads and tails aside, as long as Johnson does not allow the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to be the final arbiter of any disputes, not just fish, the deal is likely to be a fair one.
Should that occur, both sides will declare victory but neither side will be happy.
Those expecting more as well as those wanting no deal at all will make a smelly stink no matter what happens.