German Chancellor, Angela Merkel is believed to be largely responsible for the collapse in trade talks between the UK and the EU earlier this week.
The Times reported this week that UK and EU negotiators have been able to forge ahead in recent weeks thanks to the absence of chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who was forced to self-isolate with Covid.
With Barnier out of the way, Merkel was believed to have collaborated with his deputy in scaling down the EU position, paving the way for a deal.
Following Mr Barnier’s return to the fold had a dampening effect and coincided with French President Emmanuel Macron has received the most publicity for his extreme fisheries demands. However, it is Mrs Merkel who is believed to have made the most significant move behind the scenes in ruling out a mechanism that would have helped break the deadlock.
According to today’s Mail, Merkel’s positive influence has been wildly exaggerated as she, like Barnier and Macron, is fearful of doing a deal with Britain, specifically Boris Johnson, unless it is loaded with restrictions.
The PM’s free-spirited style doesn’t sit well with Frau Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran Pastor who was brought up in Germany’s austere communist East.
Rather than reaching a compromise, Merkel is “determined to make Britain crawl across broken glass,” said a Government source.
According to diplomats, there is a trust issue. The UK is trying to break the deadlock through the creation of a new body to settle disputes, but that would be too loose a settlement for the German leader because of Boris.
It is the “Lutheran’s distaste for the libertine” that has raised No Deal from a possibility to a probability, says one negotiator.
On Wednesday evening, the PM travelled to Brussels to pitch fresh ideas to EU Commission President and ally of Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen. The now infamous dinner date over fish netted in the North Sea came to nought as Mrs von der Leyen rebuffed Boris’s suggestions to make a deal possible.
Recently, the EU has proposed a “ratchet clause” to punish Britain whenever she chooses not to follow the EU in tightening regulations.
Commentators have observed this type of mechanism is totally unheard of in a trade deal. A transparent attempt by the EU to keep Britain in its orbit and stop it from supercharging its economy through clever changes to existing rules originally put in place by Brussels bureaucrats.
Discussions between the UK and the EU are set to end today. With the EU sticking to its demands and the UK increasingly fed up with its ideas being thrown back. While talks look likely to be extended, that merely reflects that both sides still want a deal. Whether they’re prepared to compromise is another matter.