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Dramatic shift in tone will persuade most that a Brexit trade deal is now on the cards
Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen's decision to carry on talking was, despite the sabre-rattling of the past few days, always more likely than pronouncing the negotiations dead. But the tone of their joint statement marked such a dramatic shift to persuade all but the most irredeemably pessimistic that a deal is now on the cards.

Describing their phone call as "useful", the two leaders acknowledged there were major unresolved topics but agreed that it was right "to go the extra mile" to reach agreement. Gone was the invocation of "remaining significant differences" and they set no new deadline by which agreement must be reached.

The talks in Brussels have focused on the level playing field guarantees of fair competition and specifically on how to manage divergence between standards as Britain moves further away from the EU's regulatory system. Both sides have agreed that they will maintain current environmental and employment standards but the EU has demanded a mechanism to deal with any competitive gap that opens up if one side improves its standards and the other does not.

Both sides appear to have moved with the EU accepting that any such mechanism must be reciprocal and Britain agreeing that there could be some "rebalancing" through the application of tariffs. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab suggested on Sunday morning that Britain was open to retaliatory tariffs on specific sectors affected by a divergence in standards but not to a "nuclear" option of blanket tariffs.

It is stunning the degree to which such an important agreement can be held hostage to some theatrics like deploying gunboats and bogus claims to absolute sovereignty. Fishing quotas can always be leased and tariffs can always be targetted at specific products where regulatory divergences appear.

None of this matters a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but appearances are all. Boris must be able to wave a "British" fish around his head in the aftermath of the negotiation and declare victory with a fish pie ready deal. Then he will renege and have to be brought in line again by punitive sanctions, but c'est la vie. No one trusts him anyway. There are consequences to electing a charlatan and congenital liar as the British are about to find out.

False bonhomie is about Boris' only M. O. His "friends in Europe" have had his number for a long time and are crushing him with their love of detail and his disdain for same. Later, a la Withdrawal agreement, he will discover his oven ready deal contains some ingredients he didn't bargain for and vexatious and frivolous (Trumplike) proceedings will ensue. But its all a display for the rubes. The UK will be a much diminished and fractured entity.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 13th, 2020 at 02:19:01 PM EST

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