With less than two months to go to Brexit, Brussels seems to have accepted the idea that no deal will be reached before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.
That, according to centrist daily Le Monde, is bad news, but it’s looking more and more likely.
The situation comes as a major surprise following, as it does, 17 months of negotiations and the so-called “final agreement” signed by Europe and British Prime Minister, Theresa May, last November.
Unfortunately, May was not able to convince her Conservative colleagues in the House of Commons to agree with the rest of Europe.
Since then, the British leader has survived a confidence vote but has failed to make any fundamental changes to the divorce document.
Europe determined not to give an inch
Le Monde says the 27 other member nations now seem determined not to budge a further centimetre, leaving May with a deal which she can’t sell at home and can’t change in Brussels.
The topics of discord are many and various. But the crucial question seems to be what to do about the border between the Republic of Ireland, which is staying in Europe, and Northern Ireland, which is leaving.
Theresa May has assured the European partners that there is an alternative to a return of the customs barrier separating the two parts of Ireland. But the chief EU negotiator, Michael Barnier, says his teams have spent months looking at various ways of preserving the 1998 Good Friday Agreement without a return of the border, and have found nothing that works.
Either Northern Ireland accepts special customs status within the European Union, something which the loyalist community refuses, or the frontier between north and south will become a smuggler’s dream as goods and farm animals are shifted in whichever direction pays the highest subsidies, or levies the lowest taxes.