HOPES of a British trade deal with the EU sank yesterday after preliminary talks ended in squabbling – over sets of initials.
It happened when civil servants from Britain and Brussels met to try to thrash out the basis of an agreement before formal negotiations start following the UK’s departure from the EU on January 31.
Unfortunately, the senior mandarin due to represent the UK had to pull out at the last minute because of illness and an unbriefed junior official, who was unfamiliar with EU-speak, had to take his place.
The result, as this leaked transcript shows, was a combination of contradiction and confusion.
‘Good morning. I am here on behalf of the EU.’
– ‘Good morning. I’m the UK’s representative.’
‘Very well. So, let us get down to business. First, I want to assure you that the EU will put CSCETA on the table during the formal trade deal negotiations.’
– ‘CSCETA on the table? Ah . . . that’ll be Coffee, Sandwiches, Cakes, Eggs and Toast Aplenty? Well, it sounds like the catering will be excellent.’
‘No. CSCETA is a Canada-Style Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.’
– ‘Oh. I see.’
‘Or we could offer you EEANPO.’
– ‘Endless Extensions And Nitpicking Political Obfuscation? I don’t think so. We want to get Brexit done.’
‘No. I mean a European Economic Area Norway-Plus Option. But whatever deal we reach, we will insist on LPF.’
– ‘LPF? You mean Lockable Personal Files? The UK could definitely supply some of those.’
‘No. I mean a Level Playing Field. LPF will manage economic competition with the UK to reduce the risk of the EU being undercut by British firms that benefit from a new free trade agreement.’
‘Another important issue is that the UK must allow the EU continued access to British fishing waters. Our trawler crews will be looking for RS.’
– ‘Rock Salmon? Reef Sharks? Russian Sturgeon?’
‘No. Relative Stability. Both parties must agree the amount of fish that can be caught long-term.’
– ‘If you think we’ll go along with that, you don’t know your RS from your elbow.’
‘In addition, we will want DA.’
– Let’s see. District Attorney? Dad’s Army? Duck’s A**e?’
‘No. Dynamic Alignment. Despite being out of the EU, Britain must continue to match EU laws on security, workers’ rights and environmental protection.’
– ‘Er, well . . .’
‘We are also seeking an NRC.’
– ‘What’s that, then? A New Reality Check? A Nikon Reflex Camera? A Nouveau Riche Companion?’
‘No. A Non-Regression Clause. It’s a promise by the UK not to fall below current standards shared with the EU.’
‘And we might bring in NL.’
– ‘Naked Ladies?’
‘Non-Lowering. It means that if the UK raises standards, you may never be allowed to lower them again.’
– ‘Look, I’ll have to consult with the Prime Minister on all this. There’s a telephone hotline to Downing Street here. Just give me a moment while I call him.’
– ‘Yes, Prime Minister. That’s right. No. I agree. Yes. Quite. Of course. Yes, Prime Minister. Thank you. Goodbye.’
‘Well, what does he say?
– ‘Mr Johnson thinks the only way to respond to your plan is BRINO.’
‘That’s great news! Brexit In Name Only!’
– ‘No. Boris Regrets It’s Not On.’