Thus far, every time there is any movement in the trade negotiations between the team from the UK, and that representing the EU, our free and fearless press has sought to frame it as the EU backing down, or the UK refusing to be bullied by the EU. Neither is remotely close to reality. That should be borne in mind over the coming days.
This was on the mind of the BBC’s Nick Robinson, who was lightly grilling Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning. What Robinson did not manage to rumble in time was that Sunak was of less than totally full candour regarding the state of play of those negotiations.
But here a problem enters with all those claims that negotiators are hard at work. As Nick Gutteridge has reported from Brussels, “Michel Barnier has told David Frost he sees no need to travel to London at the weekend for more 'probably pointless' talks unless there's movement on the three key sticking points. No decision has been made yet, but neither side is denying this report”. That report, in French, is from Les Echos.
What he also failed to tell those listeners was the corollary: the EU side has moved as far as it is prepared to move, and the next move is down to Frost and his boss. Sure, the talks will continue, but the EU side will see no further intervention. No cavalry riding to the rescue. No sidelining of Michel Barnier. If we want no deal, they will accept that.
The reality is that the UK will have to sign on the dotted line, climbdown and all. The problem will be in selling that to Tory backbenchers who have become drunk on the unreality Kool-Aid, and the militant Brexiteers who have done very much the same.
How will those pro-Brexit papers sell this one? It’ll have to be someone else’s fault.