British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is engaged in intense “hotline” talks with his European counterparts, amid claims a Brexit deal could be struck within hours — a deal Brexit leader Nigel Farage has warned could be a betrayal of the British interest.
A Brexit deal could be agreed between the UK government and the European Union today (Wednesday) or even tomorrow, Christmas Eve, according to claims made in Britain’s The Sun newspaper. The Reuters wires service makes similar claims, citing unnamed senior European figures who say the deal could arrive Wednesday evening.
Yet despite British and European negotiators agreeing on a deal, the matter of ratifying the terms remains. For the European Union, this process can take weeks or months, but it has been widely reported that the bloc has developed a special truncated process, perhaps bypassing the usual channels and going directly to member states’ national capitals for assent.
For the UK, it means a debate and vote in Parliament — but dumping what is reported to be a highly technical and complex 2,000-page document on Parliamentarians at very short notice and expecting them to make a snap decision on whether to back it or not may lead to anger in the chamber. MPs have already said they will want to go through the document with a “fine-tooth comb”.
Whether a deal does emerge or not, the recent news escaping from Brussels — the so-called ‘tunnel’ phase of talks specifically formulated to cut out journalists and other observers, ostensibly to remove distractions for negotiators — indicated significant disagreements remain, particularly on regulatory alignment and fishing. If a last-minute deal is agreed now, it remains the case that the cost of that deal would be the United Kingdom or the European Union making significant concessions to the other.
Just last night, the EU called the United Kingdom’s latest counter-offer on fishing unacceptable, suggesting a breakthrough may remain some way off in this area.
Brexiteers Threaten to Veto Any Brexit-in-Name-Only Deal https://t.co/CdAHS2pRga
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 21, 2020
Seeking to advance these talks, the prime minister has been engaged in “hotline” talks with the European Union which the pro-Europe business newspaper the Financial Times has characterised as “intensified” regular contact between Johnson and the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen.
The paper also noted that while talks could continue after Christmas and towards the New Year, there was a desire to wrap things up before Christmas Eve.
That British negotiators may be bounced into a last-minute agreement by Brussels is a major concern of UK Brexiteers, who have suspected for some time that getting a deal to keep trade flowing without tariffs would mean unacceptable failures in Brexit-critical concerns around sovereignty.
British pro-Brexit parliamentarians have threatened to veto the Brexit deal if it is a “Brexit in name only” document, revealing concerns over what exactly the British government will be pressured into agreeing to in Brussels. Nigel Farage warned Britons earlier this month that the government would try to spin a Brexit betrayal as a “fantastic victory” in order to get the people to accept whatever Europe gives them.
Reflecting on the late stage of talks, he said: “This is all, in my view, an act. This is a giant charade. It’s to make us think that they are really, really fighting hard to get us a good deal.”
Farage: We Will be Told a Brexit-in-Name-Only Is a ‘Fantastic Victory’ https://t.co/mecbzG8DON
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 15, 2020