The Brief, powered by Eni – The Brexit tango: Does it really take two?

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“Sufficient progress” has become something of a Brexit catchphrase.

Yet, while diplomats in Brussels eye the looming 19 October deadline for agreement on the UK’s exit bill, the Irish border and citizens’ rights, Britain is still too busy dancing back and forth on its own to notice.

After last week’s disappointing round of negotiations, which failed to resolve any of the Brexit holy trinity, it finally began to look like London was ready to pull its socks up and “start negotiating seriously”.

Rumours of Britain “intensifying” the talks and a back-room deal on the exit bill brought a glimmer of hope that the process was back on track. Surely a minor outbreak of goodwill and realism was all it would take to push the talks over the “sufficient progress” line and move on to the nitty-gritty of future EU-UK relations.

But yesterday’s leak by The Guardian of a confidential Home Office document showed that rather than closing the gap on these crucial issues, the two sides are drifting further apart.

The leaked paper acknowledges that “migration benefits the UK, economically, culturally and socially”. But it then goes on to describe in detail how the government will pull up the drawbridge once it reaches the Brexit cliff-edge.

The tough proposals to end free movement and bypass parliament to erect new barriers to EU migrants will hardly be seen as “progress” in Brussels.

Under the plans, EU citizens will automatically be considered as temporary workers and will lose the right to family reunification for all but spouses, dependent relatives and children under 18.

No wonder the paper was marked “sensitive”. If this really is the government’s position, then it shows how little chance London has of securing any kind of deal.

If the October deadline comes and goes, the two sides will have less than a year to reach an even more comprehesive deal on their future relations and the whole timetable risks falling apart.

EU officials said in June they needed “very clear commitments and guarantees on citizens’ rights before we can move on”. They are still waiting.

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Serbians are split: Russia is their best friend but they would prefer to live in a Western country. Look at a new survey depicting an indecisive country.

Europe’s response to cyber security threats will respect national sovereignty, Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip reassured member states.

Emmanuel Macron is on tour again, this time in Greece, where he will deliver his vision for Europe. Support from Italy, Greece and Belgium is on the table, but he will need to secure buy-in from Germany.

Here’s a list of advice for Theresa May: compromise on the ECJ, pay the Brexit bill, turn a blind eye to the Irish border, and ask for a fair transition deal what will avoid a cliff edge for the UK. It’s her last chance, warns Andrew Duff.

A sneak preview of Jean-Claude Juncker’s state of the union speech reveals that trade will take centre stage. Here are all the details.

The Walloonatics are back (kinda). Belgium will ask the EU’s top court for an opinion on the legality of the CETA trade deal, particularly regarding the controversial issue of investment protection.

Look out for…

Commission chief Juncker meets European Parliament President Antonio Tajani in Brussels. Perhaps for a new row?

All views are the author’s.

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