Brexit latest

I think this is pretty significant and rather hopeful.

First, of course the first side to state a number will end up having to move towards the other side. The consensus around Brussels is that the final figure is likely to be €60bn, but allowing the €100bn to unofficially circulate was smart tactics. If the UK’s opening offer is €40bn (rather than zero, as it was previously), we will likely reach a figure that both can live with in the end. (Probably nearer the €60bn because the EU has prepared better.)

Second, if the UK line is now that they will only pay if they get a trade deal, that is not really very far from the EU line that they can only have a trade deal if they pay.

Third, of course it is not true that the EU is refusing to talk about trade until it has “reached a settlement” on the three priority issues (money, citizens’ rights and the Irish border). The criterion is that the negotiations must make “sufficient progress”, a much weaker test; this is because the EU27 need to be satisfied that the British are negotiating in good faith, and at present there is considerable doubt about that.

It looks from here as if the UK government is presenting the EU’s position as much more hardline than it really is, and a gullible press is uncritically accepting this line, thus enabling the British to present their inevitable caving in to the EU’s real conditions, when it comes in due course, as a famous diplomatic victory.

This is all relatively good news, in that the chances of a catastrophic hard Brexit are being reduced and we are left the the merely awful spectacle of Brexit with some form of trade deal. But the work seems to have barely started on this in Whitehall.