Britain's dance with the EU is riddled with missteps and bad timing
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The Brexit talks resemble two seasoned dancers paired together for an all-or-nothing performance.
The EU sways one way, while the UK tapdances another. One wants to do the tango, while the other has rehearsed for the salsa. You cannot hear the music above their bickering, and their missteps are resulting in each dancer's toes being trodden on. Political negotiations, like a dance, are all about timing.
And time is running out for Theresa May. In this routine, Brussels is leading, as Westminster attempts to adjust to the new rhythm. Although they have tried to move from one dance to another, from Phase One to Phase Two in the negotiations, Britain has repeatedly missed its cue. There was a misstep in October, when they should have waltzed their way to discussions about the transitional period and their future trade relationship. The next one is coming up in nine days' time, where they need to finalise a deal for progression before the EU summit.
Brussels is no longer pretending that it is in "negotiations" with the UK, according to the Guardian. Despite the bluster from Britain, the EU "has it over a barrel" with the ultimatum that Theresa May must either meet their demands or walk off a cliff. The negotiations have, so far, proven a one-sided affair. The demands from the bloc for progress no longer seem negotiable - Michael Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, has made them "a series of immovable legal hurdles".
The issue over the divorce bill, a financial settlement from Britain to the EU, appears to have been resolved. They are, however, still clashing over the Irish border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Yesterday marked an "absolute last deadline" set by Donald Tusk, the European Council president, for the UK to finalise a deal in principle on the three key issues: money, citizens and Ireland. The deadline passed, and both sides have yet to reach an agreement.
Mrs May is not only dancing with the EU over the Brexit negotiations, but she is learning the steps for other performances. In regards to Ireland, she needs to move in time with the Irish government, the DUP in Northern Ireland, and her own MPs. The New Statesman's Stephen Bush lays out options for the prime minister. Following Britain's departure from the EU, and outside of customs union, there could be customs checks between the North and the South - which is unacceptable to the Republic - or in the Irish Sea - which is "untenable for the DUP". The third option is to "remain in the customs union and within the regulatory orbit of the European Union". This would be a happy jig for the majority of MPs - although it would be dancing with two left feet for a large majority of Tories.
The dance between Brussels and Westminster, riddled with missteps and bad timing, is seemingly going on forever. With the tune not changing and the moves remaining the same, it could result in Britain falling off the stage with the EU looking from above.