Brexit is becoming a masterpiece in procrastination

"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today." My mum said that to me a lot as I was growing up. But she never...

Posted: Dec 8, 2017 4:41 PM
Updated: Dec 8, 2017 4:41 PM

"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today." My mum said that to me a lot as I was growing up. But she never completed the saying: "unless you are negotiating Brexit." The progress report on the Brexit talks agreed upon Friday by the UK and the European Commission is a masterpiece of procrastination.

It's worth emphasizing what we saw in Brussels on Friday morning was little more than a progress report. This is not a deal -- and for at least two reasons.

First, and excuse the pedantry, but the European Council has to accept it (though it doubtless will). Second, the one thing on which the European Commission and Conservative Brexiters agree absolutely is that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed." Which means a deal can't happen until next autumn.

This is not to say nothing has been achieved. On two of the key sticking points the deadlock has been broken. On citizens' rights, Prime Minister Theresa May has managed to shift the European Union away from its earlier intransigence, particularly when it comes to a continuing role for the European Court of Justice.

And on the "Brexit bill," a clever compromise means that the EU gets largely what it wants, but the UK avoids handing over a large check now.

Yet on Ireland, this has been a textbook example of kicking the can down the road.

We are no nearer to knowing which party to the Irish discussions will end up feeling betrayed: the Republic of Ireland, by the imposition of a hard border between it and Northern Ireland? The Democratic Unionist Party, by the placing of that border in the Irish Sea, cutting it off from the rest of the UK?

Or Conservative Brexiters, via a decision to keep the whole of the UK in the EU's single market and customs union, which they would see as remaining in the EU in all but name.

There is no fourth option. The notion that "full alignment" with internal market and customs union rules in the event of no agreement on Ireland will survive first contact with either the European Court of Justice or a hardline Brexiteer such as Jacob Rees-Mogg strikes me as fanciful.

So there is a lot still to be done. Yet this step-by-step approach makes sense.

First, because the government in the UK is capable only of small steps. Political instability at home means long- or even medium-term thinking is impossible.

Second, because, given this instability, we have no idea what the political landscape will look like in a year's time.

It is only a year from now that an actual deal needs to be struck. And things will be much tougher at that point. By then, we will have had talks on transition that make it clear the UK will still be bound by EU rules even once it has ceased to be a member state. By then it will be obvious that the Brexit bill cannot be used to secure favorable terms on a trade deal. We will hardly have started talking about that deal when agreement on the bill is being signed.

And so while everyone should welcome the progress made, no one should mistake it for a deal. That is yet to be done.

And so, as with so much to do with Brexit, the saga will roll on. ...

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 728811

Reported Deaths: 13405
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion996911740
Lake53548966
Allen40529675
St. Joseph35596550
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Elkhart28470441
Tippecanoe22375218
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Grant7032174
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Morgan6557139
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1082815

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1258081400
Cuyahoga1119722115
Hamilton799721205
Montgomery514061014
Summit47145945
Lucas42119788
Butler38338584
Stark32273906
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Clermont19761238
Delaware18512133
Licking16418212
Fairfield16176199
Trumbull16032468
Medina15268264
Greene15063244
Clark13983299
Wood13080189
Portage12839203
Allen11639232
Richland11349199
Miami10670217
Muskingum8803133
Wayne8793211
Columbiana8778229
Pickaway8564121
Marion8523135
Tuscarawas8473244
Erie7888154
Hancock6914127
Ross6846155
Ashtabula6805170
Geauga6686148
Scioto6406101
Belmont5881167
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Lawrence5549102
Jefferson5525151
Huron5430119
Darke5355123
Sandusky5347120
Seneca5282121
Athens519158
Washington5155109
Auglaize490784
Mercer480385
Shelby469293
Knox4486110
Madison435661
Putnam4278100
Fulton422469
Ashland421789
Defiance419697
Crawford3975107
Brown394157
Logan381676
Preble379598
Clinton372163
Ottawa366679
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Williams339275
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Jackson312551
Perry294950
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Hardin270864
Henry268666
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Holmes2603101
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Adams237852
Pike237634
Gallia235349
Wyandot231055
Hocking215362
Carroll191547
Paulding172640
Meigs144840
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108423
Harrison108137
Vinton83115
Unassigned02
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