So, Brexit didn’t “get done” after all. Indeed, if the remarks of David (Lord) Frost, in effect still British chief negotiator on Brexit, and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic are anything to go by, then Brexit may soon be undone, and destined to hang around for years if not decades, poisoning domestic politics and international relationships alike.
This week, on the “margins” of the G7 summit in the uplifting surroundings of the Cornwall coast, Ursula von der Leyen, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and even Joe Biden will attempt to bypass “Frosty the No-Man” and approach Boris Johnson directly with the aim of winning a compromise. They seem not to realise that, on Brexit, Mr Johnson has mutated from his days as Europhiliac mayor of London to become the most truculent man in the room. They are likely to find the prime minister happy to be at the centre of the world stage, but as pugnacious as ever on the Northern Ireland protocol, fishing, and much else.
Things are looking down for the British-European “partnership”. The war of words has turned into a row, nicknamed the “sausage war” – a deliberate trivialisation by the UK of the issue of food safety – and there is every sign that more court actions and selective trade sanctions will follow. The result will be an uneasy coexistence, an economic cold war between the UK and EU, with the terms of Brexit never quite settled. The Europeans probably do tend, as Lord Frost says, towards “legal purism” and legalistic solutions and precise rules; the British tend to be overly careless of their international treaty obligations, preferring “political” answers. These cultural differences have snagged the talks for five years, and continue to do so.