James Forsyth

Could Brexit talks drag on past Christmas?

Could Brexit talks drag on past Christmas?
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Brexit deadline after deadline has slid to the right. There is, however, one deadline that is set in law: that the transition period finishes at the end of this year.

Comments from the UK government and the European Commission today suggest that this now is, really, the only deadline. The European Commission has said that ‘hopefully’ the talks will continue after the Boris Johnson-Ursula von der Leyen meeting in Brussels this week. This is to be expected given that the gaps are too big to be bridged in one meeting. The Commission’s spokesman also suggested that the talks could carry on even in the event of a no deal on 1 January – which rather underestimates how acrimonious things would become in these circumstances. For its part, the UK government is simply saying that the talks won’t continue into next year.

It is, perhaps, worth noting that the Dutch foreign minister Stefan Blok suggested yesterday that talks might end up being concluded between Christmas and New Year. Given the need for ratification, I suspect a deal would have to be done before Christmas. But it is equally clear that if there is going to be a deal, which would require both sides to be more flexible than their long-held positions, it isn’t going to come this week.