The European Union and Britain ordered their negotiators back to work Sunday after agreeing to abandon a supposed make-or-break deadline for a post-Brexit trade pact. EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said last week they would decide whether an agreement was possible by the end of Sunday, but agreed in a crisis call to "go the extra mile".
"Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days," von der Leyen said in a video message, reading out a joint statement agreed with Johnson.
"We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached," the leaders said, without offering a new deadline.
"Time to hold our nerve and allow the negotiators to inch progress forward, even at this late stage. Joint statement on Brexit negotiations is a good signal. A deal clearly very difficult, but possible," Foreign Minister Simon Coveney tweeted.
Yesterday, I wrote It's Still Too Early for a Post-Brexit Breakthrough
Deadlines come and go. So what?
Deadline is Not Sunday
The deadline is not Sunday, December 13. The deadline is Thursday, December 31.
Although I wrote that yesterday, I am on the road and I scheduled it for this morning.
Here we are. Yet another deadline has come and gone. Surprise not.
Until Dec 31, the EU gave Barnier negotiating rights. Depending on the precise structure of a deal it does not necessarily have to be unanimous.
The deal will have to be ratified, but it appears that can be put off until next year as long as a deal is reached this year.
This is why I expect a minimal deal with bickering for years to follow.
Blame the EU
Make no mistake about this: This whole mess is mostly the EUs fault every step of the way.
They could have tossed Prime Minister David Cameron a bone. Had they done so there would not have been a referendum.
They could have not tried a choke hole on Theresa May. That led to Boris Johnson.
They could not have insisted that over time the UK would have to move to the Euro. That was the "two-speed" Europe fear. Curiously, they now appear to be headed that way over Poland and Hungary disputes.
Boris Johnson rightfully stood up to all of that.
The EU misjudged the resolve of the UK and tried to put the screws to them every step of the way.
If this deal does fall through, still not my expectation, blame the EU.