James Forsyth James Forsyth

Coffee House Top 10: How Number 10 view the state of the negotiations

We’re closing 2019 by republishing our ten most-read articles of the year. Here’s No. 1: James Forsyth’s article from October on a key Brexit briefing from Downing Street:

Earlier today, I sent a message to a contact in Number 10 asking them how the Brexit talks were going. They sent a long reply which I think gives a pretty clear sense of where they think things are.

So, in the interest of trying to let people understand where Number 10 reckon the negotiations are, here is their response:

‘The negotiations will probably end this week. Varadkar doesn’t want to negotiate. Varadkar was keen on talking before the Benn Act when he thought that the choice would be ‘new deal or no deal’. Since the Benn Act passed he has gone very cold and in the last week the official channels and the backchannels have also gone cold. Varadkar has also gone back on his commitments — he said if we moved on manufactured goods then he would also move but instead he just attacked us publicly. It’s clear he wants to gamble on a second referendum and that he’s encouraging Barnier to stick to the line that the UK cannot leave the EU without leaving Northern Ireland behind.

There are quite a few people in Paris and Berlin who would like to discuss our offer but Merkel and Macron won’t push Barnier unless Ireland says it wants to negotiate. Those who think Merkel will help us are deluded. As things stand, Dublin will do nothing, hoping we offer more, then at the end of this week they may say ‘OK, let’s do a Northern Ireland only backstop with a time limit’, which is what various players have been hinting at, then we’ll say No, and that will probably be the end.

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