There will be no US trade deal if the Internal Market Bill clauses are triggered, he insists. But they wouldn’t have to be if Britain first reaches a deal with the EU. We thus have a complete reversal of the previous position. Under Trump, an EU trade deal would have made a US equivalent less likely, but under Biden it makes it more so.
To this reason for reaching a deal with the EU, Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform think tank, adds another two; that failure would play straight into the hands of insurgent Scottish separatists and would cause an already alienated business community to go through the roof in fury.
An outline deal has to be reached by the EU council meeting of Dec 10/11 if it is to stand any realistic chance of passing muster, even if, as is the way with EU negotiations, it could still go right up to the wire at the turn of the year.
In any case, it leaves precious little time to get the choreography of the required compromise sorted. With a power vacuum at No 10 and a notoriously indecisive Prime Minister at the reins, there is plenty of scope for accidents. The process needs a trusted arbiter, but there is no such person in sight.
For now, both sides are so dug into their positions on level playing field provisions and fishing rights that it is hard to see how they can be brought together.