Richard North, 19/11/2020  

And so, the talks are in the final push. This comes before the final, final push, which precedes the final, final, final push, which doubtless pops up just before the final, final, final, final push, which …

There again it looks so much more plausible in German, and perhaps in that language, it's the real thing, more so once it's been translated into the rest of the EU's 23 working languages.

Anyhow, it's not just the Telegraph which is telling us that we've reached this happy state. We also have The Sun and many other newspapers saying the same thing, citing Michel Barnier as the source, as he briefs senior European Commission figures in Brussels.

Of course we've been there before, but this time it seems "skittish" Member State governments will be demanding that the Commission launches its emergency no-deal plans if an agreement has not been concluded by Friday.

This certainly does up the ante, as the publication of the precise details of what the Commission intends to do to protect Member State interests could poison the ongoing negotiations. Perhaps they could even provide the excuse Johnson needs to stage his much-touted walk, blaming the EU for the provocation.

Nevertheless, there can hardly be any surprise at this development. Lately, we've been seeing reports of an imminent settlement, and even suggestions that an agreement was to be announced next Monday or Tuesday.

But, it would appear that impatience is winning out, with a resolution wanted before the weekend, after the EU-27 has heard that "significant differences" remain over the "famous three", namely fishing, the level playing field, and governance. Nothing has moved since the summer, and not much moved before that.

Yet still, according to Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, who is also the EU trade commissioner, talks with the UK delegation are continuing with "great intensity", as has been the case since 22 October, with scarcely a break.

Actually, it was Dombrovskis who announced that we are now in the final push to reach agreement, so I suppose we should be talking about the pedejais grudiens, and perhaps I could if I had the first idea of how to pronounce it.

Fortunately, courtesy of the Commission – or perhaps because he was speaking in English, significantly better than my Latvian – we have the rest of his remarks, where he emphasises that "we are now in the last moments to reach this agreement".

"There are still important elements to be resolved", Dombrovskis adds, in a not-exactly shocking revelation, as he notes: "We have seen many deadlines come and go but there's one deadline which we'll not be able to move. 1 January".

Barnier is to report to the EU-27 ambassadors on Friday morning and one of those helpful but anonymous "senior EU diplomats" tells us "I do have the impression that the finalisation of the legal texts is beginning but there is no breakthrough on the famous three points".

It is this him or her person – being anonymous, we shall never know (it could even be an androgynous extra-terrestrial) – who says, "We must now come up with contingency measures". The 1 January, he, she or it says, is getting close, so "we need a safety net", adding: "Of course this sends out a political signal. But we have a business community that we want to tell in good time what to do".

It is also this diplomat who suggests that the publication of the no deal plans could "concentrate minds" in London. "I think, and I know other Member States will ask for the same", this source said.

Using the opportunity to tag on one of those essential statements of the bleedin' obvious, he, she or it then regales us with the thoughts that, "It's quite clear, there will be a disruption on 1 January. The question is, how big a disruption".

Actually, my guess is that there will be very little disruption on New Year's Day – we probably won't see that until we're further into the month, and you can bet that the UK government will be doing its very best to keep the visible signs out of the public eye, and away from the television cameras.

Cynics might even suggest that, to compensate for relaxed Covid restrictions over Christmas, we have a convenient 25-day lockdown in January, with wall-to-wall television re-runs of The Great Leader's most popular speeches. I made that last bit up.

Turning to The Sun's rendition of these thrilling developments, it seems we might not have to wait until the New Year for our fun. This paper has it that the EU-27 are set to throw down the gauntlet to Johnson, taking "a hard line" in the hope of shocking him into late concessions.

If that is the aim, I hope they've got their psychology right, otherwise it could simply provoke a hissy fit, and have Johnson rushing to the podium to extoll the merits of a no-deal outcome.

According to this paper, the hopes of a deal are in fact less than even the Telegraph indicated, which is why it is always a good idea to take your news from multiple sources – especially when the original sources are not readily accessible.

From this source, we find that, contrary to earlier, more optimistic reports, France is sticking to its guns over demands for access to UK waters. And, if that is the case, it is unlikely that we'll see any movement over the next few days.

This time we have "gloomy diplomatic sources" – anonymously gloomy – saying there was "no reason for optimism" as the two sides are "still quite far apart". Despite their gloom, though, this lot are saying that the negotiations can only continue for a few more days into the middle of next week before "time will get the better of us".

Personally, I would prefer the Friday, although, at a pinch, next week would do. With a book to finish, I don't think I could bear to wait until the middle of December, before the outcome is finally decided.

Meanwhile, amid dire warnings from Nissan about the fate of its plant, I am entertained by the Paulick Report which is conveying the warning of the Thoroughbred Industries Brexit Steering Group to avoid the movement of horses to the EU in the first two weeks of 2021.

With less than seven weeks to go before the transition period expires, we are told, there will be significant changes to how horses move between the UK and the EU from 1 January, irrespective of whether a Free Trade Agreement is signed.

Whilst British racing is in regular contact with the relevant government departments to gather information and best prepare the industry for Brexit, some details remain to be fully clarified and the new travel arrangements will also be entirely dependent upon any agreement which may be made by the UK government with the EU.

I seem to recall writing about this nearly four years ago and, here we are with less than seven weeks to go and the issues are still not resolved.

In a way, this tells you all you need to know about Brexit preparations. And we've yet to hear from the passenger lift industry, which is significantly more valuable than commercial fishing. But what I'm really going to enjoy is the squealing over Formula One, an industry which seems to have had its head firmly in the sand.

Story of the week, though, is that pens are to be rented for sheep and cattle stuck in Brexit traffic in Kent. That's a little unfair, I thought. Why can't they have laptops?

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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