Brexit trade negotiations: what does the departure of Dominic Cummings mean?

A last minute "compromise" by Downing Street, possibly involving a cleverly worded deal over EU access to UK fishing grounds, and heavily speculated over in the Brussels bubble, may now on the cards as the transition period comes to an end.

The departure of Svengali Dominic Cummings and Director of Communications Lee Cain from Boris Johnson's inner circle brought a sparkle to the eyes of EU officials and UK political figures alike, with the Daily Mail reporting one senior Tory as saying "Gosh, maybe we will now get to actually fulfil our roles as Cabinet ministers."

Bernard Jenkin MP said "I'm not surprised in a way that it is ending in the way it is. No prime minister can afford a single adviser to become a running story, dominating his Government's communications and crowding out the proper messages the Government wants to convey."

Conservative MP and former MEP Theresa Villiers said Cummings' departure is "a good opportunity for a fresh start.

"Clearly there are concerns about the dismissive attitude sometimes shown by Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings towards people in Government and MPs on the backbenches'", she continued. "This is an opportunity to move on from that and to have a more collaborative approach."

For the EU's part, the perception has been for some time that the influence exerted by Cummings and Cain clouded Johnson's reasoning, possibly to the point where compromise may no longer be achievable.

I see what is happening now in Downing Street. We can see this as a quite chaotic situation where we don’t have an idea what is really the line in Great Britain. So don’t tell us we should be ready for compromise. We need a clear idea from Boris Johnson now and I think it’s now time for leadership … to achieve an easy trade deal now. It’s time to take over responsibility and come to a common understanding.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament, speaking to the BBC

One thing both sides do agree on is that the transition period will not be extended.

“The transition period will end on December 31st, there is no doubt about that whatsoever. We would like to get a deal but it has to be one that respects the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. If we’re not able to reach a free trade agreement, we will leave on Australian-style terms,” said one Downing Street spokesman, referring to the asymmetric deal which sees Australia navigating a variety of restrictions and multi-tier tariffs.

Image: By ClemRutter - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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