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We are on the edge of Brexit abyss but cannot walk away

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“The talks are over,” a determined spokesman for No 10 declared. Ominously, Downing Street has also withdrawn the invitation to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to come to talks on Monday. (stock photo)

“The talks are over,” a determined spokesman for No 10 declared. Ominously, Downing Street has also withdrawn the invitation to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to come to talks on Monday. (stock photo)

hard brexit stock

“The talks are over,” a determined spokesman for No 10 declared. Ominously, Downing Street has also withdrawn the invitation to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to come to talks on Monday. (stock photo)

When it comes to Brexit, Boris Johnson has been on the brink of more precipices than Sherpa Tenzing and Edmund Hillary put together. But in Mr Johnson's case, the crowning achievement would be to remove the flag from the top of the EU summit, instead of planting one.

So far, it has proven a lot more difficult than he or his base camp imagined. But if Downing Street is to be believed, they have had enough of the huffing and puffing.

"The talks are over," a determined spokesman for No 10 declared. Ominously, Downing Street has also withdrawn the invitation to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to come to talks on Monday. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen added to the mood of foreboding by saying: "The EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price,"

So has the British prime minister really had enough of the thin ice and slippery slopes?

Or is this just another of the many squalls and storms one anticipates arriving at higher altitudes as stakes rise? The statement was preceded by a dramatic televised clip in which Mr Johnson insisted Britain would approach the prospect of leaving the EU without a trade deal - an "Australia-style" outcome - with "high hearts".

Brussels may well interpret this as another gambit to force the crisis to a head. But these discussions have been brought to so many "heads" there are grounds for fearing people have lost all sense of the enormity of the disaster failure would be. Nerve-shredding as the process has been, not to reach agreement represents an appalling vista.

London is demanding a "fundamental change of approach" by the EU or Britain will exit with no deal.

Brussels is in no mood to take leaps of faith when Britain has already gone back on the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. Both sides also remain deadlocked on the issue of fisheries and Britain's subsidy regime. It would be gravely irresponsible not to recognise how close negotiations are to collapse.

"We will prepare to embrace the alternative and we will prosper mightily as an independent free trading nation, controlling and setting our own laws," claimed Mr Johnson.

There are alarming security considerations, including the return of borders on these islands, and a weight of crippling tariffs would also be piled upon us under World Trade Organisation rules.

The process is clearly close to disintegrating but while there is still a chance to engage it must be seized. Giving up now ensures a messy and uncontrollable end, plunging an already uncertain world into deeper realms of chaos. Quitting negotiations to make room for something better might make sense but in the context of Brexit, quitting is a guarantee of something inestimably worse.

Irish Independent