As promised, we’ll turn our beady eyes on Brexit this morning, on the round of talks just ended. Before we do, let’s look at what else  ‘Our MSM’ are up to. It’s always interesting to see what they’re talking about and telling us – and what not. Looking at today’s front pages of the online papers, ‘Muzzle Friday’ didn’t happen. The Guardian has one report of happy mask wearers from small towns like Devizes and that’s it. What must occupy our national gossiping today is Harry&Meghan and the alleged miscarriage of justice in the murder trial of policeman Andrew Harper where there’s talk about witnesses having been coerced. 

There were a few articles about the Brexit talks which ended on Thursday. We read that  ‘Our MIchel’ was as intransigent as ever and as the deadline for the talks to finish by the end of this month has now slipped, David Frost has made a concession to Brussels: ‘talks’ will go on in some form or other until the end of September (paywalled link).

That is a concession to Barnier who has insisted since March that the time was too short, that nothing could be achieved by the deadlines set by Johnson and that “we” must go on until October when the EU mighties have to give their approval to whatever Frost and Barnier have agreed. Then it’ll go to the EU Parliament which has to ratify the whole thing and where a certain Verhofstadt is lurking.

However, given the usual pronouncements by ‘Our Michel’ – who is starting to look a bit podgy, btw – namely that the UK’s current position was ‘completely unacceptable’, I beg to doubt if these talks will end in joy:

“UK officials said the talks would not progress until the EU accepted that it was negotiating with an independent nation which would not allow other countries to dictate terms over its fishing waters or future policies on issues such as workers’ rights and goods standards. But Mr Barnier warned that the “time for answers is quickly running out”, adding: “By its current refusal to commit to the condition of open and fair competition, and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely. This week, again the UK did not show a willingness to break the deadlock. But the EU cannot accept and will not accept the bill for the UK’s political choices.” (paywalled link)

As usual, Barnier needs three sentences where Mr Frost needs one. As usual, Barnier castigates us for not accepting his dictums.  Interestingly, the outcry from Barnier, that the UK wants to ban ‘all EU fishing vessels’ from our waters, has been shown to be, well, a bit generous with the truth. Barnier reportedly said:

“On fisheries, the UK is effectively asking for a near total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters. That is simply unacceptable. … Any agreement cannot lead to the partial destruction of the EU fishing industry.” (link)

Of course, the EU having destroyed the British fishing fleet, it’s totally unreasonable to expect the EU to agree to the rebuilding of that fleet – of course it is! Here’s the refutation, in nice diplomatic language:

“Shortly after Barnier made this claim, the senior UK official involved in the talks effectively claimed the EU’s chief negotiator was mistaken. Yes, the UK would take back control of its own fishing grounds, but “that doesn’t necessarily require the exclusion of EU trawlers from our waters. What it means is an agreed basis in which we have the right to control access to that zone.” (link)

Barnier – mistaken? Surely not! There’s more ‘diplomat-speak’ on the role of the ECJ. I hope David Frost and our negotiators are not going to take this at face value:

“Brussels appears to have acknowledged that direct ECJ jurisdiction is a hurdle too high for Frost’s team. “They have indicated flexibility” said the UK official, “they’ve heard and understood that point of concern to us.” The British position is for future EU-UK dispute arbitration to follow existing international precedents.” (link)

Old cynic that I am, this reads to me like junk news. ‘Hearing and understanding’ and ‘indicating flexibility’ doesn’t mean Barnier will concede a millimetre. The past four years surely will have taught this to the Frost team. 

And finally – put your cup or mug down and sit on your hands before you read this! ‘Our team’ is now hoping for “Mutti”, i.e. Ms Merkel, to intervene. Yes, really:

“A senior UK source close to the negotiations said Mrs Merkel’s reputation as a dealmaker on the European stage could be key to end the impasse. “It is definitely possible now with the (EU budget) wrapped up that member states will become more engaged in this process in Brussels and get them moving forwards politically,” the source said. The German presidency, obviously, should pay more attention to what’s going on, which I think has got to be helpful. Michel Barnier, in the final phase, hopefully ought to have some political guidance,” the source added.” (paywalled link)

RemainCentral has trustingly copied their report from the DT, quoting that same ‘senior source’, using the same words, adding only their interpretation:

“Downing Street officials are hoping that after next month Mrs Merkel will prioritise finding agreement on a trade, fishing and security treaty that would come into force next year after the end of the Brexit transitional period on December 31.” (link, paywalled)

Dear Lord – are they seriously thinking Ms Merkel will tell Barnier what to do? Hasn’t the summit just past, on the extraordinary EU ‘Corona Fund’, shown that, when it comes to the crunch, Merkel and Macron will let the minnows play at looking tough and then twist all arms to get the result they’ve agreed to beforehand? And yon MS Merkel is now supposed to give independent ‘guidance’ to Barnier? Really?

The very odd thing is that the Brussels correspondents of those two papers seem to have missed the remarks made by a German diplomat in Brussels on Friday. The Guardian (yes, sorry, but occasionally one has to do the needful and delve into those pages) reports:

“Angela Merkel’s government has called for more realism from the UK in the ongoing trade and security talks, after the EU capitals were given a “sobering” update by Michel Barnier following the recent round of Brexit negotiations. After a presentation by the EU’s chief negotiator to ambassadors from the 27 member states on Friday, a spokesman for the German government, which holds the rolling EU presidency, said the bloc was ready to move negotiations quickly forward but “expressed the need for more realism in London”. (link)

That’s a bit of a downer for Downing Street! And: ‘more realism in London’ – now who has been using such words before? Stand up, ‘Our Michel’! This should be a ‘sobering update’ for Mr Frost and his team. Ms Merkel won’t be an unbiased arbitrator, she’ll do what she always does: twist arms while working hand-in-hand with that wannabe Napoleon – who of course has only the very best intentions towards Great Britain.

I think our friends at facts4eu were spot on in their assessment of the talks three weeks ago when they wrote:

“Our read of David Frost’s statement is as follows: – “This is an utter waste of time. I’m going through the motions for appearance’s sake, but we’ll can this charade as soon as we’ve got the optics right and can show the world what impossible people we’re dealing with.” (link)

These negotiations are now increasingly looking like paper-shuffling exercises, of ‘going through the motions’. The next round will apparently be taking place ‘on paper’, because ‘work must be seen to be done’ while ‘Our Michel’ is going on holidays until the middle of August. I hope you’ve also noticed that ‘Downing Street hopes’ Ms Merkel will intervene ‘after next month’ – next month is holiday month in the EU and thus nobody is around to make decisions until September. That’s how urgent this is for Barnier and Brussels!

Meanwhile, our lot under the guidance of Michael Gove is preparing for a no-deal end to the transition period as the proliferation of new and re-written guideline papers from the government attest.

Let’s conclude with this snippet about what happened yesterday on Mask Friday:

“Shopping centres across the country said that compliance levels had generally been high, but there were numerous reports of people browsing the aisles without a mask.” (paywalled link)

So no riots then, no calls for police officers to fine shoppers, no signs of civic disobedience. I hear that many people simply did their extended weekend shop on Thursday. How this will affect ‘footfall’ in the High Street and the much wished-for economic recovery remains to be seen.

The ‘next big thing’ in the ongoing CV-19 bungleathon will apparently be advice to wear gloves. Well, we’re only 5 months away from Christmas, so winter is coming. When it’s cold outside, I wear gloves without the government telling me to – what will you do? As for me – I shall buy fashion gloves, online, naturally. 

Meanwhile, I shall wait with bated breath for the forthcoming scientific debate about gloves, about how useful they are or aren’t, and especially if we must wear those surgical ones to ‘Protect Our NHS’ by not catching that virus.

 

KBO!

 

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