The Brief, powered by Eni – Waiting for a Brexit deal, or Godot….

The EU summit on 15 December has been billed as the final deadline for the UK and EU leaders to agree that enough progress had been made on citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the financial settlement for trade talks to begin in the New Year.

But it is increasingly likely that an additional ‘final’ final deadline may be required between the 15th and the Christmas holidays as Theresa May faces a daunting task of trying to reconcile the positions of EU negotiators, Ireland, Northern Ireland and her own Brexiteers.

May returned empty-handed from talks with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, after the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) vetoed the inclusion of the phrase ‘regulatory alignment’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The 48 hours since have done nothing to reduce the confusion on either side of the Channel about what is or will be on the table.

Summoned by MPs to give an account of the fiasco on Tuesday, an uncomfortable Brexit Secretary David Davis, hoarse from ‘the single European cough’, told MPs that “regulatory alignment” with the EU would, in fact, cover the entire UK.

It was an attempt to pacify the DUP, but it went down badly with his party’s ‘hard Brexit’ faction, which views this as amounting to a de facto single market membership.

On Wednesday, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new darling of the Tory Brexiteers, urged May to ‘add a coat of paint’ to her red-lines.

Nearly 18 months after the referendum, ministers still appear no closer to squaring the circle of needing ‘regulatory alignment’ to retain access to the single market but needing the support of the hard Brexiteers and the DUP to keep the government from falling.

The government’s chaos emboldened the opposition Labour party to break a self-imposed vow of silence on all things Brexit it has respected since the June general election.  

“Our position is (to remain) in the customs unions and single market in the transition period and leave the options on the table for after the transition period,” Keir Starmer told the BBC on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s meeting of EU finance ministers started without Chancellor Philip Hammond, whose flight was delayed by ‘technical problems’, a phrase that could just as well be applied to his government’s Brexit strategy.  But wait, it could get worse:

A report in The Times states that Hammond and other UK ministers will find themselves permanently grounded until his ministry pays a hefty bill to the Ministry of Defence for using RAF planes to travel to meetings, including those in Brussels.

Some might consider that to be an elaborate way to avoid travelling to the ‘EU capital’, but if May is a ‘no-show’ next week we know where to point the finger.   


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The Roundup

Who watches the watchmen? The lack of nationally binding targets for renewable energy means the Commission should “take itself to court” if it misses its goal.

In buildings’ energy efficiency trilogues, MEPs were expecting member states to meet halfway – but negotiators chose to stick to their guns. With holidays approaching, this leaves two weeks to close the file. New Year’s resolutions, everyone?

At next week’s climate summit in Paris, expect celebrities and a flurry of proposals to solve the hole of climate finance – but no more pledges, reports EURACTIV France. Meanwhile, power generators pledged to achieve “zero net emissions well before 2050”.

One of the world’s most harmful pollutants may very well be in your mouth. And, it turns out, in the hair of UN officials who got mercury-tested in Nairobi. Read our report.

In an attempt to restore its scandal-hit public image, ride-hailing app Uber joined a public transport platform to help public mobility in cities.

The EU’s tax haven list is somewhat short, according to critics: It left out British territories, and most notably, its own tax-savvy member states.

Look out for…

Ministers will be discussing consumers’ protection, alcohol policy, and big pharma in the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council starting tomorrow.

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