DESPITE fighting talk from some sections of the British media over the weekend, it would seem Boris Johnson is still in the market for a trade deal and is willing to take negotiations down to the wire.
While the hard-line Brexiteers who have championed no deal from day one were ready to pop champagne corks yesterday, both sides in the negotiations agreed to keep talks going rather than pull the plug.
In a joint statement, Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said it was “responsible at this point to go the extra mile” – an indication that a deal must still be achievable.
In this part of the world we are well used to deadlines being elastic, more of a suggestion than set in stone, moving if and when needed.
However, when it comes to securing an all-important trade deal this really is the last stop in the station for British and EU negotiators.
The ultimate deadline is December 31, but time must be allowed for the UK and European parliaments to vote on any agreement that emerges before then.
The stakes are high and a deal worth pursuing, with the economy already in near ruin after 10 months of the Covid pandemic and recovery requiring opportunities not barriers to growth.
Fishing rights has been an area of major disagreement. The EU has warned that without access to UK waters for European fleets, UK fishermen will no longer get special access to lucrative EU markets to sell their catch.
This prompted near hysterical headlines at the weekend, the Daily Express leading the charge with “Gunships to guard our fish”.
While this may sound attractive to those who hark back to a time when Britannia ruled the waves, the reality of such conflict would be devastating to that sector.
Boris Johnson is well aware of the gravity of the negotiations he is involved in, and exactly one year on from the election that rewarded him with an historic majority he needs to retain voter confidence in his abilities.
Despite the fighting talk a deal is always the preferable option and compromise will be key to securing a resolution agreeable to both sides.