LONDON — Over the past 24 hours hopes of a Brexit deal look to have faded. The two sides are as far apart as they have ever been.
Last week, the U.K. government finally put forward concrete proposals for changes it wants to the provisions ensuring there is no hard border on the island of Ireland — the so-called backstop. These came far too late and seem to have been widely rejected by the EU. Both sides have doubled down on their red lines and upped the blame game.
Yet in the U.K. Cabinet and in governments across the EU, there remains a strong desire to see a deal.
Despite the noise, there is still a very narrow path to a deal which both sides might be able to live with. But doing so requires compromise, pragmatism and flexibility — qualities which both sides have lacked at points over the past three years. Even this path will likely prove too much of a compromise, given Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to pull the U.K. out of the European Union by October 31.
This is not my ideal outcome but simply a route to a deal based on both sides’ position in recent weeks. For this reason, I will take the latest U.K. proposals as the starting point.
There are two major challenges with the U.K.’s proposals: the mechanism designed to give Northern Ireland a say and the viability of the customs solution.
Let me start with the positives, which should be acknowledged by the EU side. The U.K. has recognized that Northern Ireland aligning with EU rules and regulations on agrifood and industrial goods will likely need to be part of any solution.