AS I SEE IT: TERRY MURDEN
Like the boy who cried ‘wolf!’ there are few who are ready to believe it when a UK government minister promises that a Brexit deal is about to be be delivered. Deadlines come and go, hopes rise and fall and the markets reflect the feeling of despair among businesses desperate to know what is going on.
Yet as the pantomime of negotiations drags on with its chorus of “oh yes he will, oh no he won’t” there is a belief in the government ranks that the Prime Minister may have the last laugh by pulling off a deal, even if it falls short of what he set out to achieve.
His chief negotiator, the former head of the Scotch Whisky Association David Frost, is said to have told the PM that a trade deal could be done by next Tuesday.
Mr Frost is promising a “possible landing zone” between Britain and the EU within the week, according to The Sun newspaper.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly warned the EU that the UK will leave on 31 December – the end of the transition period – with or without a trade agreement. If there is no deal Britain will default to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Anyone who follows my occasional musings on Facebook may have seen that I considered Mr Frost’s chances of pulling it off had increased following the departures of Mr Johnson’s anti-EU advisers from Downing Street. With Mr Cummings and his gang out of the way, Mr Frost will have been told to get Brexit done – as promised.
The key question remains over how much Mr Johnson is prepared to surrender ground to Brussels.
My belief is that he’ll allow the EU some rope on fishing rights and competition issues. Despite not getting what he really wants and creating potential tensions between the hardline hard and soft Brexiteers, it will be dressed up as a victory for Britain and for Boris a year on from his landslide general election success. Cue lots of union flags and a blast of Rule Britannia.