Remember Brexit? It hasn’t gone away, you know

Yes, it’s still going ahead, negotiations are still deadlocked, and time’s running out

On January 31st this year, the European Union ruptured. After 3½ years of torturous politicking, reams of indigestible trade jargon and a veritable mountain of dire warnings, the UK left, marking perhaps the lowest point in the bloc's 63-year history. We all took a large intake of breath. And then the biggest story in decades dropped off the face of the earth. Never has one dominating news story been so obliterated by another.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Covid-19 crisis had cancelled Brexit given the lack of attention it’s got in recent weeks. The good news or bad news, depending on your standpoint, is that this phase of no Brexit news probably won’t last for much longer. The transitional arrangements, which has the UK out politically but still in economically, expires at the end of the year. If an extension is wanted, the deadline for seeking one is June 30th.

And – surprise, surprise – progress in the negotiations to reach a post-Brexit trade deal has, in the words of Tánaiste Simon Coveney, " not been good". Downing Street has previously said it will refuse an extension, even if the EU requests it. "Time is short and there's an awful lot to do," Coveney said in an interview on RTÉ Radio One on Tuesday.

And Boris Johnson was never one for deadlines. As a journalist, he was notorious for missing them. "The UK seems to want to pick the areas where they want a deal early and solely focus on those, while the EU has made it clear that's not an approach they can work with," Coveney said.


UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove painted an upbeat picture of the deadlock while hinting London may drop its demand for a "zero-tariff, zero-quota" deal. He also insisted there would be no extension to the Brexit transition period. Has anyone got the appetite for more of this?