Brexit reaches Merkel’s 30-day deadline

30 days ago Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson 30 days to come up with a workable alternative to the Irish backstop in the Brexit deal. Johnson said that he was more than happy with that timetable. Here’s what has happened since.

The 30 days began with Johnson saying:

“You rightly say the onus is on us to produce those solutions, those ideas, to show how we can address the issue of the Northern Irish border and that is what we want to do. I must say I am very glad listening to you tonight Angela to hear that at least the conversations that matter can now properly begin. You have set a very blistering timetable of 30 days – if I understood you correctly, I am more than happy with that.”

Since then….

  • The EU said it is waiting for realistic, operational, and compatible UK proposals.
  • Johnson said the UK won’t pay money owed to the EU if there is no deal.
  • The EU said that the UK will still have to pay the money owed if there is no deal.
  • Johnson said that MPs don’t get to decide whether Brexit happens.
  • Johnson announced plans to close down parliament for five weeks.
  • Speaker John Bercow said Johnson’s plan is a constitutional outrage.
  • Johnson asked the Queen for approval for a five week suspension of parliament.
  • Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson resigned.
  • There were public protests against the suspension of parliament.
  • Opposition MPs planned a vote to prevent a no deal withdrawal.
  • The UK government threatened to deselect Conservative MPs who voted for that.
  • Johnson lost the vote to prevent a no deal withdrawal.
  • Johnson expelled 21 Conservative MPs who had voted for the motion.
  • Johnson announced plans for an early election, which needed a two thirds majority.
  • Corbyn said he will only support an early election if the no-deal vote is implemented.
  • Johnson lost another vote to prevent a no deal withdrawal without an extension.
  • Johnson lost a vote to call an early general election.
  • Amber Rudd resigned from the government.
  • Boris Johnson’s brother resigned from the government.
  • Parliament was suspended for five weeks.
  • A court case was started over the legality of the suspension of parliament.
  • The government suggested they might suspend parliament again if they lost the case.
  • The government was forced to publish details of the consequences of no deal.
  • David Cameron criticised Johnson and the pro-Brexit referendum campaigners.
  • Johnson said the UK will break free from the shackles of the EU like the Incredible Hulk.
  • The actor who plays the Incredible Hulk said that the Hulk works best as part of a team.
  • Johnson refused to take part in a joint press conference with the Luxembourg PM.
  • Johnson said the talks are making huge progress, and the EU denied this.

During all of this, the UK government had refused to give written proposals to the EU. They only showed them pieces of paper saying what they did not want in the agreement, then took the pages back again at the end of the meetings.

Now, as the 30 days ended, the UK government has finally submitted written proposals to the EU, but insisted that the EU should not show them to any of the other EU member states. The EU naturally told the UK government that the other member states would have to analyse any proposals.

The European Commission described the UK documents as a first set of concepts, principles and ideas. The Commission said it was essential that there is a fully workable and legally operational solution included in the withdrawal agreement.

The UK Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay insisted that progress was being made, because the meeting had lasted an hour instead of 40 minutes. He said that this 20 minute overrun showed that the discussions were getting into the detail.

The Irish reaction? Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the gap between the two negotiating positions was wide and there was no basis for an agreement. And a priest blessing a runway at Knock airport gave Taoiseach Leo Varadkar some holy water for his meeting with Johnson next week.

We have six more weeks of this before the UK’s withdrawal date of 31 October.

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