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But that doesn't have to mean a complete breakdown in negotiations and my central expectations is that the negotiations will limp along until early 2019.
My only problem with this scenario is that - barring a change of government - I don't see the political environment becoming more conducive to an agreement in the interim.
At that stage - early 2019 - I see desperate negotiators trying to cobble together a limited agreement on a few "must have" topics like air travel together with an agreement to revisit other topics later as part of some "comprehensive trade agreement" which everyone is unsure will ever happen.
The agreement may be so minimalist that UK negotiators will have difficulty justifying any financial settlement in return which, again, makes any agreement difficult if not impossible. Some issues, like the Irish Border, may be sidetracked for agreement "later" possibly as part of a separate bilateral deal subject to EU blessing.
Eventually, and probably at the last possible moment, "a deal" will come before the House of Commons and EP amid a general lack of enthusiasm and opposition from both hard Brexiteers and Remainers.
I doubt a majority will be possible at that stage and so we will probably have a general election in the UK and exasperation in EU27. Labour will probably win amid great confusion as to what will now happen as some on the EU side will be very reluctant to start a new negotiation with a new government.
But if Labour stick to their position of wanting to remain in the Customs Union and Single Market, a whole lot of things (including the Irish border) will suddenly become much simpler.
This thing could end not with a bang but with a whimper. After a lot of sturm und drang the UK will simply succeed in disempowering itself within the EU and that will suit a lot of people just fine.
Index of Frank's Diaries
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