Brexit: Over By Christmas?

One must take media accounts of the latest proceedings with a pinch of salt.

By Dr Richard North and cross-posted from

We need to be reminded that European Councils exclude the media, and even officials. The translators are present, but their notes are collected after the meeting and burned. Servants are sworn to secrecy.

One must, therefore, take media accounts of the proceedings with a pinch of salt. It is a favourite pastime of EU officials and Member State functionaries to throw the odd titbit to the pig-pen, to watch the hacks squabble over it. And an amount of deliberate misinformation is often handed down, sometimes for no better reason than to make its originators look good (or more important than they actually are).

Nevertheless, the fact that the proceedings ran to nearly midnight is a good enough indication that there wasn’t an immediate meeting of minds. I can’t imagine that even the “colleagues” are so cynical that they were putting their feet up, watching Netflix on their laptops, just to keep the media in a state of frenzied excitement.

The culprit, who kept all the hacks past their bedtimes, is said to be French president Macron, who was apparently worried that the UK might prove a disruptive influence in its last few months of membership, blocking the Multiannual Final Framework (MFF) talks and otherwise acting in bad faith.

It is also said that Mrs May was put through the wringer in an exceptionally long interrogation, lasting more than an hour. And as between the shorters and the longers, there is no indication of who came up with the “compromise” solution of 31 October.

When you think about it, though, 31 October is the obvious date for the UK’s Brexit extension. On reflection, it could have been no other, once Mrs May’s preferred date of 30 June had been ruled out.

The clue is given by Reuters, which occasionally has its eye on the ball. It points out that the EU holding European Elections could change the political balance of the parliament which, in turn, could distort the choice of Commission president, favouring the centre-left.

To avoid this, EU officials had been considering extending the mandate of Jean-Claude Juncker, whose term expires at the end of October. But dumping the UK MEPs would also be necessary so that a Brit-free parliament, with the “correct” political balance restored, could approve the “right” – i.e., centre-right – candidate with the minimum of disruption.

That we have to go to all the palaver (and cost) of an election, for MEPs who will attend four or maybe five plenary sessions, it neither here not there. The “colleagues” have never been too worried about spending other peoples’ money. And then, presumably, the UK will also be paying budget contributions up to the end of October, which should run to a tidy few billion pounds

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