By Joe Harker
The EU's message to the UK can be boiled down to "give us something realistic by the end of the month".
Seemingly tired of the UK, and in particular Boris Johnson, Brussels has sent the ultimatum of delivering a written Brexit plan before the end of September or "it's over". "It" meaning Johnson's chances of getting a deal in this context.
Will Johnson have a plan by then, or is he as woefully unprepared as a kid who hasn't done the homework being asked to show it to the class?
Antii Rinne, prime minister of Finland (who hold the rotating EU presidency), was the one to make the demand after consulting with French president Emmanuel Macron.
Downing Street have said they wouldn't be rushed on putting proposals forward, insisting they would present something to the EU "at the appropriate time".
Johnson really needs to have a deal, as his promise to take the UK out of the EU "do or die" on October 31 has been torpedoed by new legislation requiring him to ask for an extension if he hasn't got a deal by late October.
Having previously looked like he was heading for a no deal Brexit, Johnson now appears stuck in a "deal or delay" situation when he promised his supporters the latter option would only happen over his dead body.
Will Johnson have a Brexit plan for the EU by the end of September? For his own sake he really needs one.
The Counter Claim:
However, the British government said they wouldn't be putting their formal solution on the table for an "artificial deadline", suggesting they'll miss the milestone.
Ultimately, the EU doesn't really trust the UK and is a bit sick of Johnson claiming progress in negotiations is being made when it really isn't.
They doubt his plans are workable and even then are unsure whether it would even manage to get through the House of Commons.
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, warned talks shouldn't be a pretence when new proposals haven't been put on the table.
The British government keeps talking about optimism and progress but Barnier has pointed out that no progress has been made. They have called him out to present workable proposals sooner rather than later, concerned the negotiations are being strung along as a cover for something else.
The UK yesterday shared confidential documents with the EU detailing a number of scenarios that might be possible. They are not the clear proposals the EU was asking for, though.
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay said the UK has been set "a test it cannot meet" over demands for a clear plan to replace the backstop and present workable proposals for a Brexit deal.
He said the UK would need an entire year to come up with a concrete new policy, arguing that they didn't need to actually have a solution until the end of the implementation period in December 2020.
If there is no withdrawal agreement there will be no implementation period and there cannot be a withdrawal agreement if there is no agreed upon solution for the border in Ireland.
The EU are not going to agree to a Brexit deal without the backstop if the political declaration says an undefined alternative solution will be worked out in the following year. It's too vague and uncertain, what happens if the implementation period ends and the UK still hasn't produced a workable idea?