There have already been so many “crunch days” for Brexit, but today really is important. Today, Theresa May is holding meetings with key figures across the EU, before leaving to let the European leaders discuss over dinner what they plan to do next.
She’s on the continent in the hope that she can win over European Council President Donald Tusk, Irish premiere Leo Varadkar, and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
Mrs. May told the press that she believes “intensive” work is needed now to overcome the differences over the Irish border situation, but that she still thinks a deal is possible. You have to hand it to her – she’s at least determined to get her own deal through.
The summit today was a big occasion. The leaders of the remaining 27 EU member states were going to give the go-ahead for an emergency summit to be held in November, where the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU would be finalized. This was meant to happen this month, but alas, the can is still being kicked down the road.
It remains to be seen whether the go-ahead will be given. It all depends on how much progress Mrs. May has made today over the Northern Ireland border issue. I suspect, however, that no such progress will be made.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is expected to say today that the talks have not resulted in the “decisive progress” that the EU wanted to see before agreeing to a new, emergency summit in November.
This is the moment that any decent leader would back out, but Mrs. May is clinging on there. You know that really tacky poster you used to see in offices years ago, of the cat hanging on to a washing line, which read “Hang in there, baby!” at the bottom? That’s Theresa. She’s a cat clinging onto a washing line, being poked with a stick by pesky local kids, while her other feline mates shout from the sidelines that it’s time to let go and chase the kids that have been poking her.
The EU is taking advantage of us, and we don’t have to take it.
So what happens if Mrs. May just refuses to let go, refuses to abandon the talks, and refuses to change her Chequers proposal? Well, the EU might simply reject a summit in November…and that causes serious problems.
We’re heading towards new European Parliament elections, which is going to take up a lot of the EU’s time. The year is almost over, and we have to leave by March next year. If the summit is pushed back even further, we’re looking at a couple of options – either No Deal, or Theresa caves and we get the worst deal possible.
But until later this evening, we won’t know. Who knows, perhaps Mrs. May has something up her sleeve. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.