Led by chief negotiator – Michel Barnier – the EU are now effectively holding the UK to ransom, suggesting that a withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU is “within reach”, but it remains upon the condition that either Northern Ireland or the entire UK remain in the customs union until a separate deal on future relations is achieved.

Throughout the negotiation process, whilst the UK has continually pitched proposals and offered alternatives, the EU has stubbornly resisted efforts to make compromise. This does not seem to be changing.

The Irish border has been decisive throughout negotiations and, in recent months, has effectively been allowed to frame the Brexit process. The EU have repeatedly proposed a “backstop” solution to tie the Northern Ireland to the customs union and areas of the single market that have underpinned the peace agreement since 1998. Theresa May and the Government have explicitly rejected this as an option. Nevertheless, the EU seem unwilling to explore alternative options. As a result, discussions recently reached an impasse, leaving the integrity of the UK lying in the balance.

Once again Michel Barnier has exposed his reluctance to find an agreement; persistently transfixed on a European project that isn’t working. On Wednesday (10th October), speaking to European entrepreneurs in the European Parliament, Barnier warned that companies will have to adjust even if there is a Brexit deal. “It will not, and it cannot be business as usual,” he said, adding that the European Commission has set up plans to help businesses.

Unchanged in his familiarly pessimistic tone, Barnier received a standing ovation from business leaders as he told them: “This vote is a pity and shame, it is better to be together. I think Brexit brings no added value, this is a negative negotiation, it is a lose-lose game, where nobody stands to win.”