As we knew all along, the October Hostage Deadline will come and then go. Well, who was ever going to sign up for "whatever amount you say it is, Monsieur Barnier" in order to move forward? So now, according to the well-briefed Graun (which has faithfully taken dictée from its euro-source):
European Union leaders seek to publicly talk up [May's] efforts in the Brexit negotiations because they fear that the prime minister’s domestic weakness will leave her unable to make vital concessions on Britain’s divorce bill ... The member states are acutely aware that the prime minister needs to come out of the summit with her dignity intact if she is to get her cabinet and party to accept concessions on the divorce bill ... the instability of the British government makes it vital for them to soften the blow for the prime minister, who will need to take the political risk of further major concessions on the financial settlement in the weeks to come ... EU’s collective hope and expectation is for a deal in December, but diplomats insisted this need not be the end of the road. “If not, no one will be ready to throw in the towel, but we will be ready to think of another milestone, another threshold of time to move on.”How charmingly considerate of them. Another milestone, another threshold of time. Another hostage deadline.
It's certainly true May is a hopelessly weak negotiator, as the awful Hinkley incident showed everyone all too clearly last summer. If, in a funny sort of way, this actually parlays into a bit of a dynamic with the euro-wallahs, well, that's where we are anyway. Perhaps ... perhaps they don't much like the thought of McDonnell either. Why would they? - he's really hostile to the Lisbon Treaty, much more than (for example) I am.
Which brings us to the other development, which is that Corbyn is on euro-manoeuvres. Well of course he is - or rather, the euros are on divide-and-rule manoeuvres. Of course.
In principle there's a prize for them here, but (equally, in principle) a problem. Nothing could be neater for them to arm Corbyn for a struggle that might end in (e.g.) a big enough revolt in the Commons for Brexit to founder. The trouble is, Corbyn (or more cogently, McDonnell) wants the freedom to nationalise / selectively ban cheap immigrant labour / ignore property laws etc etc. So the gameplan has always looked like: let the Tories do all the heavy lifting, and sweep to power in 2022 with a working majority and no EC / ECJ to worry about. Five years to dismantle the armed forces / security services / NATO etc etc ... what joy!
So - no deal to be done between Corbyn and the EC? Unfortunately, this is where Drew's 4th Law of Politics cuts in: The lines of logistic in politics are short. Nothing could be easier than to tell Jezza the Jejune over lunch that he can have his nationalisations and selective migration ban, in return for engineering a Commons defeat in coordination with a couple of pre-planned one-twos at the negotiating table. Nothing in writing, mon cher Jérôme - but that's the way things are done, we know you'll understand. Of course, we'll be asking you to join the Euro-defence force, and hand over GCHQ to us - but you never really wanted to get involved with all that stuff anyway, did you? So much safer with us ... oh, and your seat on the Security Council, such an anachronism ... yes that's right, you could raise taxes as high as you like!
Yep, that can happen in 20 minutes. Doesn't mean they like him. Doesn't mean they'll deliver on a word of it! But it can happen.