26th November 2020

Waiting for the outcome – deal or no-deal – now feels like waiting for the results of an election. The campaigning has been done and the opinion polls scrutinised. We await the exit poll and the first results. But the waiting is being excruciatingly extended and the deadline seems endlessly elastic. We don’t know exactly when the result is expected, nor indeed the deadline for the end of the negotiations.

My overall assessment is that the chances of a deal by the end of the year remain on a knife-edge. What can be said now is that the chances of a comprehensive deal, even a significantly pared down one, ratified and ready for implementation on 1st January have fallen. I would still put the deal/no deal chances at roughly 50:50, but the deal itself is more and more likely to be provisional and partial in some way. One way or another negotiations on some matters are very likely to continue in 2021. Read more in my latest blog.


See the Archive page for a list of all my EU and Brexit writings from 2015 to the present with short summaries

Recent pieces

2nd October 2020. The UK Internal Market Bill – a kick-start to the Brexit negotiations or their death knell?
A top level political intervention – the UK Internal Market Bill with its powers to override the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement, and thus break international law, has energised the negotiations. But rather than a kick-start the negotiations it might have kicked them overboard.

26th August 2020. The Brexit negotiations – it’s plus ça change as we await the Autumn moment of truth
The overall picture remains the same as in June. The deal/no-deal question hangs in the balance. The moment of truth will come sometime in the Autumn. Any deal in prospect will very damaging, but significantly better than a catastrophic no-deal.

15th June 2020. The Brexit negotiations – risk of no-deal is high but might be overplayed.
There’s plenty of pessimism around. But a no-deal exit is not inevitable. Before any decisions the government will be looking very closely at the impact on domestic politics.

19th May 2020. Tensions rise in the Brexit negotiations – an extension now seems less likely.
We need to be careful not to fall for the government’s bellicose posturing, but other signs indicate the chances of an extension are lower. And, although no-deal is a central part of the government’s negotiating strategy, I argue that they do actually want a deal.

19th April 2020. Brexit transition and the corona virus crisis – what hope reason will prevail?
Rationality suggests an extension is essential, but the government still insists there won’t be one. The situation isn’t easy to read, but on balance I think the potential disruption will necessitate an extension.

19th April 2020. Towards a hard Brexit? The negotiations and possible outcomes.
Terms such as ‘hard Brexit’ a ‘thin’ or ‘quick’ deal are bandied around. In terms of tariffs, regulations, and the extent of any agreement, I briefly sketch the negotiating positions, the tensions and the possible agreements that could be reached at the end of the year.

2nd March 2020. Brexit negotiations – possible outcomes by end of December 2020.
Broadly there are three possible outcomes – a deal of some sort, no deal or extended transition. Many think that Johnson is fully serious about no deal unless the EU backs down on the Level Playing Field regulations. Perhaps. But I’d argue that it’s entirely plausible that it’s an elaborate bluff.

29th February 2020. Why is Johnson threatening to renege on the Irish Sea Border deal?
Despite appearing as a great achievement against the odds, the deal was far from what many Brexiters wanted. It was a political convenience to overcome the threat of losing their Brexit as Remainers were getting the upperhand.

10th February 2020. Why did Remain lose when things had been going well in mid-2019? 
Lots of things but there were two big turning points. In October 2019 the government decided to go for the Irish Sea border deal. Quite a climbdown. Then the opposition parties decided to support an election. Not a good move.

Selected pieces – 2019

19th December 2019. A hammer blow election result
The tenuous hopes of a hung parliament – and the possibility of another EU referendum – were dashed at 10pm on election night of 12th December.

3rd December 2019. Little more than a week until polling day. Now a two-horse race. The Conservatives are still favourites, but there are signs of Labour narrowing the gap.
There are some hopes of a hung parliament. While the Conservatives are favourites, a number of factors may work against them including, narrowing polls, undecided moving towards Labour, high number of new voter registrations and possibly high turnout of young people, tactical voting, higher level of activism among Labour supporters.

21st August 2019. Despite the gloom, the outcome of Brexit is far from certain. This must give Remainers hope.
Many think a no deal Brexit is almost inevitable. Either the EU completely caves in on the Irish border backstop or a no deal Brexit occurs on 31st October. However, Brexit is too complex and unprecedented to predict with any certainty. Behind the bombastic façade Johnson and his team will be much less certain than they appear.

20th August 2019. A new low – Boris Johnson as PM and his extreme approach to Brexit.
But beyond Johnson’s bombast there are important similarities between his approach and Theresa May’s.

14th March 2019. “Let’s get it done,” says Theresa May, but Brexit difficulties have only just begun, according to Sir Ivan Rogers in a talk in Bath
I’m sure many people wish Brexit would go away. So much time and energy are being wasted when there are many other big issues to address. Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s ambassador to the EU up to January 2017 when he resigned, gave a fascinating talk in which he dispelled any hopes that Brexit will go away quickly if the deal is agreed.

1st February 2019. Shouldn’t the deal be accepted as a compromise? Most of the country wants to move on doesn’t it?
Shouldn’t reasonable people view the deal as a necessary compromise that will allow us to move on? Surely it ‘splits the difference’ and offers an opportunity to heal deep wounds. If only. Unfortunately the deal falls a long way short of any such hopes.

Selected pieces – 2018

21st December 2018. Conversations on the streets of Bath with wavering Remain voters
I was out on the crowded streets of Bath campaigning against Brexit with Bath for Europe on two recent Saturdays. Some of the more challenging conversations came not from the hard Brexiters but from the waverers. Particularly those who voted Remain, but could vote differently in another EU referendum.

9th October 2018. Deal or no deal? A comment on Jason Hunter’s talks on Brexit and trading on WTO terms
The talks by Hunter, Graham Hughes and Stuart Brown included vivid descriptions of the chaotic and destructive consequences of a no deal. It was clear that they see a no deal outcome as likely, but how likely is this? Hunter’s level of certainty of a no deal outcome surprised me. For what it’s worth, I think the chances of a withdrawal agreement in the next couple of months are higher the speakers seemed to suggest.

14th May 2018. Is it worth it Mrs May?
Theresa May has driven the Brexit process since becoming Prime Minister. It was her decision alone to reject a soft Brexit and to trigger the article 50 procedure on 29th March 2017 before there was any clarity about Brexit. She has refused to answer a question on how she would vote now in a referendum and was unable to say whether Brexit is worth it. A confident leader surely would have responded with some rousing words in support of it.

Selected pieces – 2015-2017

16th July 2017. Complacency and the Re-leaver
Re-leavers voted to remain in the EU, but now say the referendum vote should be accepted. But what do they want? Close relations with our European neighbours it seems, but probe more deeply and a picture of complacency emerges – an unrealistic view of the kind of Brexit deal that can be achieved.

15th July 2016. After the referendum – salvaging a bit of positivity
One thing’s certain, no referendum result will change the fact that we remain European. This is not just geographical – our history and culture in good times and bad have been inextricably bound with the European continent at least since Roman times. We are in Europe and we are European, as the Eagles said about the American dream 40 years ago, ‘you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave’.

15th October 2015. The EU referendum campaign begins
The long EU referendum campaign has begun, though we don’t yet know how long as the date hasn’t been fixed. Despite the continuing small lead for remaining in the EU there is a sense that the momentum is with those campaigning to leave. Nevertheless leavers still have significant hurdles to overcome.