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Barnier lays waste to UK plan
The headline of one tabloid screamed "Brexit back on course".

The polite reception in Brussels - and Dublin - for the UK's latest Brexit paper on the "backstop", prompted by relief that at last they had something to talk about, led some optimists in London to the view that a robust UK had pulled one over on Brussels.

Dream on.

When Brexit secretary David Davis meets the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday morning for the next talks round, he will find that the gloves have come off.

And he will be rapidly disabused of the hope that all the UK had to do to win brownie points for effort at the end of June summit was to demonstrate a plausible willingness to address the backstop issue.

No-one really expected them to resolve the issue, they believe. That hurdle passed, the summer would allow them to engage in chasing the real prize, a comprehensive EU-UK agreement on their future relationship that would make the politically embarrassing backstop agreement redundant. It is only there, after all, to provide a guaranteed fallback should no other deal be done.

Not so.

Barnier on Friday made clear that that strategy would not wash. For a start the UK document paper can not be described as a plausible attempt at addressing the issue. Politely, he demolished it brick by brick.

Crucially, he explained, member states were prepared to make an exceptional case of the North, waving common EU rules and practises for the first and last time, to preserve the frictionless Border and the Belfast Agreement. Such privileges were not on offer to the rest of the UK by virtue, not of malice, but its decision to leave the union. To imagine you could simply extend the backstop provisions UK-wide was presumptuous nonsense.

The British paper's failure to even discuss the EU-UK regulatory alignment that would be essential to any border-control-free regime is bizarre. As is its attempt to equate an "expectation" of a time limitation to the backstop with a specific commitment to one - as Barnier pointed out a time-limited backstop is no backstop, no guarantee.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 9th, 2018 at 08:54:43 AM EST

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