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At the end of this Lost Year, Brexit now close to being a lost cause

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EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is presenting as progress the prospect of a 'short no-deal period' at the beginning of January

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is presenting as progress the prospect of a 'short no-deal period' at the beginning of January

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is presenting as progress the prospect of a 'short no-deal period' at the beginning of January

It's easy to lose a sense of perspective when you are too close to something – perhaps that’s what has happened on Brexit. The swamplands, hills and troughs it has led us through have created a miasma.

We seem incapable of either moving on or standing still, and as such spend an inordinate amount of time and energy going nowhere.

Each side’s blushes may be spared in acknowledging that they are hopelessly lost because each side is equally unsure about where they are supposed to be.

So the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is able to reassure us with some faint confidence that there could be a “short no-deal period” at the beginning of January even if a deal is reached with the UK in the coming days.

It says much about the state of affairs that this can be presented as progress.

A temporary period of limbo dancing may be preferable to the protracted unofficial version we have been gyrating through for the past four years.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen feels negotiators have entered the “last mile”.

“First of all, there is movement. That is good.” she said.

Seasoned negotiators insist one should always distinguish between movement and real action.

It is important to keep dialogue going, but it needs to be meaningful and, at some stage, it needs to be conclusive.

Exhaustive states of suspended animation can not be maintained indefinitely. Reality must eventually be reckoned with.

Boris Johnson has spoken of “dynamic divergence” while the EU has a preference for discussing “dynamic alignment”.

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What the rest of us on the sidelines need to know is how this will affect how much money is in our pockets at the end of the week.

Or whether we are more or less likely to have a job.

Brexit has a way of making days, hours and minutes melt away.

If it has a horizon, no-one has glimpsed it yet.

William Faulkner once wrote: “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”

It seems in Brussels and London there is still a great reluctance to bring the process to life.

Both acknowledge they will soon run out of time to implement their own legal procedures, even to bring the treaty into force provisionally in two weeks’ time on January 1.

Therefore a no-deal interregnum would be “probably the most likely” scenario, according to sources, unless agreement is reached.

It has been said before that people are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.

If there is to be an escape from this stalemate, momentum has to be restored.

2020 has already been classified as the Lost Year.

Without a new initiative, or assertive leadership, Brexit is in danger of being similarly classified as a lost cause. 


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