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In summary, nothing has changed. Again.

Will they, won't they?

Last week started with lots of expectation and rumours of a deal being sealed in advance of a possible EU summit in November. The reason for this, it transpired, was simply counting back on the timeline required for a deal to be considered on the provisional date announced at Salzburg (17-18 November).

UK ministers and EU negotiators were keen to pour lots of cold water on the idea: a veritable waterfall. All this was despite frantic meetings being held behind closed doors and the leaking of multiple draft timelines for a deal to be announced. Perhaps if the government had shown this much energy when Article 50 was first triggered we might have arrived at a deal by now, although that's probably just wishful thinking.

Privileged, much?

Once it became clear a deal was unlikely to be announced, it transpired that the Cabinet had yet to see the legal advice from the attorney general regarding the deal as it currently stands. Cue multiple calls for the legal advice to be made public, or at least to MPs - certainly to the Cabinet - but nothing was forthcoming. David Davis should know better, as a former secretary of state, but then he did land us in this mess in the first place.

Legal advice, after all, is privileged for a reason: the government didn't want us knowing all the flaws in their proposals. Although let's face it, it doesn't take a genius to figure those out. That said the idea a group famously seen as privileged somehow isn't privileged enough to see privileged information is, well, unusual.

The argument is, of course, that from a constitutional perspective, the Cabinet governs Britain. Power is not vested solely in the prime minister, and so surely those who are in control of our country should see the legal advice.

Clearly this isn't working for them. Perhaps the Cabinet just needs to 'take back control' like the rest of us?


Then last Thursday a letter from the PM to the DUP was leaked to The Times (I wonder by who), hinting at the fact that a 'backstop to the backstop' might still be included in the final text of the deal - although of course the prime minister would never countenance the idea of it ever coming into effect. She's been very, very clear on this.

Clearly not clear enough. The DUP are outraged. They feel duped, or perhaps more appropriately DUP-ed. The truth, though, is that if this proposal remains in the divorce deal, it will not get through Parliament and the Government knows it. Even Dominic Grieve has come out against it today, warning of widespread revolt amongst Conservative MPs purely on constitutional grounds. They will not countenance a border down the Irish Sea - and neither will opposition MPs.

So we remain at an impasse. Nothing has changed. Next week is another week, though - perhaps then, with rumours of more Cabinet meetings, we might finally see a deal that has been 95% complete for several weeks. We live in hope.

Given the importance of the Home Office and immigration to the whole Brexit process, and the fact that the UK only has 150 days before exit day, it is concerning that a government minister and a senior civil servant do not appear to be entirely on top of their brief. It probably also points to the enormous complexity of Brexit - there are so many issues left unresolved and so little time left to prepare and negotiate.

Sarah Jones, managing director, public affairs practice