Oh, hang on.
– – –
As we wrote soon after Article 50 was moved, the talks will have their ups and downs – and no-one can know how the negotiations will end. (The day will doubtless bring more details and briefings from yesterday evening’s dinner.)
The sum of where we appear to be is that the EU wants a commitment to more money than the Government is prepared to offer before it is willing to discuss trade. The two sides seem closer to agreement on the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens here.
On Ireland, the third of the EU’s sticking-points, any agreement on trade and customs could be held to set a precedent for trade talks in relation to the other EU27 members.
This highlights a paradox. The Commission and the 27, other than Ireland, have an incentive not to agree yet an element of the talks than they are demanding be agreed now – or as soon as possible.
It may be that one or either side, or both, moves on money before December, thus breaking the deadlock, but there is little likelihood of any important movement before or at this weekend’s EU summit.
All in all, the only sensible course for the Government to take is to keep talking; be as Ready on Day One as it can be (Deal or No Deal), and agree its position on what economic, social and regulatory model it wants Britain to follow post-Brexit.
After all, there will be little gain from any breakthrough to begin trade talks if Theresa May and other Ministers don’t know what they want from them.