Only then will MPs be scared enough to vote for her dealby Sam Lowe / September 5, 2018 / Leave a comment
Michel Barnier has repeatedly warned the British that the clock is ticking in the Brexit negotiations, and there is wide consensus that Britain needs to get its skates on.
It is no surprise that there is growing frustration. But in all of this there is a crucial point that is underappreciated: May needs Brexit to go to the wire, or at least close. She needs the threat of attributable, actual peril. Only then will she win domestic support for the withdrawal agreement.
It’s easy to forget that the EU and UK are not currently negotiating the depth and scope of their future relationship. They are negotiating the terms of the UK’s withdrawal—the “divorce.” There will be a political declaration, setting out joint aspirations for the future relationship, but neither party will be legally bound to deliver it.
The EU will not back down on its demands for the withdrawal agreement. It will insist that geographical indicators for food products must be protected (trust me on this one), and consensus on governance provisions will be found. The EU is equally unlikely to budge substantively on the Irish backstop, though here there might be some scope for additional riders. I have previously proposed a “backstop to the backstop,” which would see the Northern Ireland-specific protocol supplemented by text allowing for the customs union to be temporarily extended to the whole UK, conditional on post-withdrawal agreement.