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Analysis: Groundhog Day at the Brexit negotiating table

Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. At least that was funny...

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before – the Brexit deadline has slipped.

Yes, you read it right. The no ifs, no buts October 15 cut-off for trade talks has been pushed back to October 16, with warnings from Number 10 that negotiations could even continue into the “coming days”. Theresa May must be loving this.

The former premier was often maligned from the backbenches by sniping Brexiteers like Boris Johnson who would gloat how they could sort it all out if only they were in charge.

Well, they’ve had hold of the Brexit Rubik’s Cube for well over a year now and still haven’t completed the puzzle.

As paradoxical Brexit briefings for journalists so often go, we’re told that 95% of things are now agreed, but nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, left.

The banana skin? Fisheries. The EU is sticking to its guns in demanding status quo access to UK waters and the British side seems stumped.

We’ve offered a three-year transition to allow EU fishermen to continue catching as they currently do in our waters, we’ve also offered a long-term deal on quotas, but Brussels will not budge.

Sailing into perfect storm?

The question now is whether the EU will back down at the last-minute or will we sacrifice a whole deal for an industry that, while symbolically important and key for the north-east of Scotland, makes up just 0.5% of the UK economy.

The fishing industry, doubtless aware of the pressures on the UK Government, took the step of issuing a statement before the final round of talks last week urging negotiators to plough on and behind the scenes MPs from coastal constituencies are badgering ministers to make good on past promises.

It all now hangs in the balance, with the prospect of a perfect storm – a no-deal Brexit and second national Covid lockdown – on the horizon.

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