Richard North, 11/10/2020  

It was nearly a year ago (most recently) that we got hint of the UK's intention to side-step the Brussels negotiation agenda with proposals for a series of so-called mini-deals.

So the story went, many of the EU-27 capitals had been approached by London with offers of deals or bilateral arrangements that would ameliorate the impact of a no-deal Brexit on both sides. But the move was said to have infuriated Commission officials, including Barnier, who rejected the idea of a patchwork agreement.

Now, with a no-deal TransEnd on the cards, we see the mini-deal idea re-emerging, with a report in The Times.

However, according to Bruno Waterfield, we have Britain and the EU apparently agreeing to pursue the "mini-deals" if talks fail next week. Thus, the British and EU negotiators will keep talking to offset the most disruptive aspects of a no-deal Brexit even if trade negotiations break down.

This is said to be "a sign of growing trust between the two sides" and comes before the European Council later this week, with Frost and Barnier planning to maintain contact even if a wider deal proves impossible to reach.

In such an event, Waterfield avers, the two teams will spend November attempting to put together "mini-deals" in areas such as aviation and road transport, in an attempt to offset the likely disruption when the transition period ends on 31 December.

This new understanding between the two sides, we are led to believe, is that they would work together in areas of mutual interest to salvage as much as possible from the talks, with the two sides determining exactly how extensive the no-deal agreements would be. This report, though, is somewhat in contrast to the rendition offered by The Sun, which has Johnson telling Macron that UK is ready to exit on "Australia-style terms" if no deal reached.

This is the sort of issue illiterate reporting we expect from UK newspapers, which has Johnson "playing hardball" as next week's supposed deadline looms, a deadline which is not actually a deadline as talks are supposed to continue.

Basically, therefore, the weekend media is of very little use to us in understanding what is going on, with all the indications suggesting that there is no clear line or understanding. The media is floundering, with tedious space-filler stories which take us no further forward.

The same sticking points remain, from fishing to level playing fields and beyond. Nothing definite has emerged to suggest that any of the details have been resolved, or that an agreement is imminent. All we can do, therefore, is watch and wait. We'll know when we know, and not before.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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