The EU keeps calm and carries on as UK wrestles with itself

Across the European Union, a grim acceptance is taking hold that London may not wish to reach a deal, and that the British government’s actions may have already made one impossible even if it does.

“The chances that all this will lead to a no-deal, because the British government decided it actually doesn’t want to have a deal, is by now the overriding sentiment in the parliament,” said the European Parliament’s Brexit rapporteur, the Dutch Labour MEP Kati Piri.

“Even if it was a tactic, it was a destructive one,” she said of the British government’s introduction of the internal markets Bill, which would reverse parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement reached less than a year ago. “It destroyed all faith in the negotiations.”

Yet the prospect of a crash-out does not command the attention it once did. 

Across the continent, national capitals are focusing on containing Covid-19 and managing its economic fallout. In Brussels, this week’s showpiece is the state of the union address of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who is expected to address climate change and the future of the bloc as it navigates its way out of the pandemic.