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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Brexit: down to the wire

by New Worker correspondent

BREXIT TALKS have come down to the wire amidst Leaver fears that Boris Johnson will use the cover of the Christmas break to fudge an agree-ment with Brussels to allow continued easy access to the European single market. The Prime Minister says he still wants a deal but not one “at any cost”, warning that the talks are still “most likely” to end without an agreement. But European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier remains upbeat about reaching agreement before the end of the transition period deadline on 31st December.

Last weekend Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to extend negotiations on a trade deal beyond the self-imposed deadline of 13th December. Although agreement on the special status of northern Ireland has been reached, outstanding issues include future UK fishing rights, and the set of rules and procedures designed to prevent businesses from undercutting their rivals in another country.

“As things stand, I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not. But I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement now. The path may be very narrow but it is there,” the European Commission President said, adding that despite some progress, talks on fisheries were still very complicated, and that the “next days are going to be decisive”.

Veteran Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage fears a sell-out and one of his deputies, Dr David Bull, said “this is exactly what we were expecting”. Dr Bull, a former UKIP MEP, said that he and his former colleagues were ready to get back into the ring politically if Johnson signs up to a deal that compromises British sovereignty.

In Parliament, there’s still a hard-core Europhile camp within Johnson’s camp that can easily close ranks with the Remainers on the Labour benches and amongst the other opposition parties such as the Lib-Dems and the Scottish and Welsh nationalists. They will almost certainly support any deal that preserves some sort of partnership with the EU – largely because they see it as the foundations for a future campaign to get Britain back into the European bloc.

That day, however, is not likely to come during the lifetime of this parliament. Remainer hopes that Sir Keir Starmer would provide an opposition focus for a “second referendum” have been dashed by the Labour leader’s unwillingness to add to his unpopularity by joining in the fray at such an inopportune moment.

Whatever happens, Johnson will need to get any new EU trade agreement passed swiftly by Parliament during the festive season. But “Parliament will not be an obstacle to ratification,” says Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons who, along with the chief whips on both sides, organises the agendas and timetables of the debates in the House.

Rees-Mogg said that parliament can act “very quickly” when needed and had previously “managed to pass the legislation to remove a king-emperor within 24 hours” – a reference to the row over the monarch’s marriage that led to Edward VIII’s abdication in December 1936.