Richard North, 17/10/2018  
 


I always found it to be the case when I was working in Brussels. Even though one would read the London newspapers with just as much attention as when I was at home, after a few days their petty preoccupations never seemed to have quite the same urgency as when one was reading them "in-country".

The same is happening again, except perhaps more so. I spent the morning visiting the Normandy beaches in the British sector, ending up at Arromanches where the famous artificial harbour was set up and where the remains can still be seen (pictured).

We finished off the day walking some of the ground of the Goodwood battle in July 1944, plus the obligatory visit to a military cemetery, which I will always find overpowering.

And, although I half agree with Ian Blackwell, who says in his book, "The Battle for Sicily" that you can't really understand a battle until you've visited the site, it really doesn't take much imagination to understand that, if you attempt to charge higher ground in broad daylight in weak tanks with poor guns, defended by a determined enemy with better guns and armour, you ain't maximising your chances of winning.

Perhaps that's a lesson Mrs May needs to take on board. She should be with me in Normandy, rather than in Number 10 – where, interestingly, I haven't seen a single EU flag, even on the local mayors' offices. Maybe she'll have to fly here before jetting off to Brussels today.

Certainly, one wonders what she's playing at, as her pronouncements get more and more bizarre.

Her latest comes after a cabinet meeting in London yesterday, where we learn she will urge EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday to keep the door open to continuing Brexit negotiations. Apparently, May told her colleagues on Tuesday: "If we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this".

I can't really add much to this than what I observed in my previous post (and many before that one). Unless she's got some more powerful guns and better armour at her disposal, she is not going to achieve very much by charging up the hill.

We're getting much the same from Donald Tusk, who is warning Mrs May that, from the report on the state of the negotiation that he got from Michel Barnier yesterday as well as from Mrs May's statement in the House, he had "no grounds for optimism" before today's European Council.

He has invited Mrs May to give the UK Government's assessment of the negotiations today and, later, the EU-27 will decide on how to take the negotiations forward, on the basis of a recommendation by Barnier.

This is exactly the point I made yesterday, where the Commission proposes and the Council disposes. Nothing is going to be decided on the basis of what Mrs May tells the Council.

Tusk recalls that, at Salzburg, the 27 wished for maximum progress and results that would lead to a deal in October. As things stand today, he says, it has proven to be more complicated than some may have expected.

Nevertheless, he wants the 27 to remain hopeful and determined, "as there is good will to continue these talks on both sides". But he also cautions preparation for a no-deal scenario, "which is more likely than ever before", even though this must "not lead us away from making every effort to reach the best agreement possible, for all sides".

He concludes that, "As someone rightly said: 'It always seems impossible until it's done.' Let us not give up".

From the look of it, though, in that other country – that strange kingdom on the other side of the Channel – the prime minister has already given up. She flies out today, as far as we are aware, with her pockets empty. Will she dance a jig in the hope that the "colleagues" give her another chance? And if so, to what tune will she dance?






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