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One year into Brexit and we’re no closer to a deal

It’s a year since Prime Minister Theresa May gave her Lancas..

It’s a year since Prime Minister Theresa May gave her Lancaster House speech in which she set out the government’s priorities for ensuring a smooth and orderly Brexit transition. That’s right, a year. Time flies.

So, it’s only natural to look back at the 12 months that have elapsed since that day and examine how much progress has been made. And the reality is, there has been very little progress at all.

OK, Mrs May has given a few speeches about Brexit and cut a somewhat lonely figure at several European Summits. And on a Friday in late September she took the Cabinet to Florence, where she gave yet another speech.

Meanwhile, her Brexit Secretary, David Davis, told MPs his department had a number of impact studies forecasting the effect of Brexit on vital British industries, only to deny it later and risk being held in contempt of Parliament.

Then Ireland, its border with Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement threatened to kill any Brexit deal at birth.

And yet, against all the odds, in December Mrs May appeared to close in on a deal on the three areas — the Irish border, European Union (EU) citizens’ rights, and Brexit bill — where agreement was needed for negotiations to move onto the tougher stuff, namely trade.

It’s worth noting how long it took the government to even get to the point of beginning trade talks. It’s also worth noting how much time is left before Britain is due to exit left from the EU stage. The answer is not much at all.

While, officially, trade negotiations haven’t begun, unofficially they most certainly have. Officially, what is generally accepted to be the toughest part of negotiations with the EU will begin in earnest in March, one year before Britain is due to leave the EU.

According to news reports, Mrs May will give her fourth major Brexit speech in the next week or so, setting out the government’s view of Britain’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit.

But she has to quell infighting among her Cabinet ministers first in order to reach an agreed position — something that really should have been done months ago.

The next hurdle Mrs May hopes to clear is to have reached agreement on Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU by October. That gives her six months to reach a deal.

Given the past performance of her government in Brexit talks, the lack of real clarity on Britain’s position up to now (which admittedly may have been deliberately obtuse as part of a negotiating tactic) and the fact that there are a huge range of industry sectors to cover, what hope is there that all this will be agreed by then? The conclusion most will draw is not much at all.

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