Mainstream media outlets are ablaze with the “news” that the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has been given the green light for so-called “tunnel” negotiations with his British counterparts.
With the British Parliament and government both rejecting the withdrawal treaty negotiated by Theresa May, and the European Union rejecting the rehash of the treaty with some alternative arrangements for the customs border between EU member-state the Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland put forward by Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom is currently headed for a clean break with the bloc — or, if anti-Brexit MPs have their way, yet another Brexit delay.
After the Irish prime minister (or “taoiseach”) Leo Varadkar suggested that a deal could still be done on-time following one-on-one talks with Prime Minister Johnson and a meeting between Barnier and Britain’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, however, the word has gone out that “tunnel” negotiations may (or may not) be on the cards — although few reporters have elaborated on what this actually means.
EU diplomats confirm to @AFP that EU27 has given green light for Brexit talks to enter a negotiation 'tunnel' (ie. intense negs with a communication blackout — no briefings, no leaks).
This just days before Oct17 make-or-break EU summit.
— Marc Burleigh (@marcburleigh) October 11, 2019
EU won’t go into tunnel unless both sides can clearly see ‘landing zone’ ahead. EU resisted PMs enthusiasm to head into tunnel immediately after presented his proposals last week. Needs trust + a big leap forward considering how far apart both sides were on key issues this week..
— katya adler (@BBCkatyaadler) October 11, 2019
HOLD UP! It might not be a full tunnel. More of an underpass. https://t.co/p8yxTyTsAb
— Matt Wells (@MatthewWells) October 11, 2019
Marc Burleigh, Brussels correspondent for AFP, indicates that “tunnel” negotiatons are essentially just regular negotiations without breifings or leaks, conducted in an “intense” way — which rather raises the question of what EU and British negotiators have been doing up until now, considering Brexit was originally supposed to take place on March 29th and its current deadline is only twenty days away.
Mr Burleigh’s initial claim that Barnier has been given the “green light” for such talks now seems uncertain, however, with a number of other reporters inflicting an abundance of mixed metaphors on observers by suggesting that the governments of the EU27 will not enter a “tunnel” with the British without being able to see a “landing zone” at the end of it.
The European Commission has confirmed that the EU and British teams “have agreed to intensify discussions over the coming day” but according to CNN reporter Bianca Nobilo this falls short of “secret tunnel talks” and is “more of a journey into Plato’s cave”.
Whether or not there was ever really anything to report other than that the two negotiating teams are still negotiating remains unclear.
Eu statement on Brexit talks 👇🏼. “The EU and UK have agreed to intensify discussions over the coming days”, so no secret tunnel talks just yet…more of a journey into Plato’s cave https://t.co/BjWB7vVjM9
— Bianca Nobilo (@bianca_nobilo) October 11, 2019
Maybe the real tunnel negotiations were the friends we made along the way
— Stephen Canning 🎃 (@EssexCanning) October 11, 2019