The Brexit negotiations start with a little confidence building, a hiking stick und a first victory for the EU.
There’s a roadmap
After day one, the exact contours of Brexit are still in the dark but at least it’s clear now what will be negotiated first. Just like the EU chief negotiator predicted all along: "We will first talk about the rights of EU citizens, the final bill and the borders in Ireland."
The Brits had demanded for months to negotiate future relations simultaneously, but since no one knows what they're supposed to look like, everybody decided to start with the KNOWN problems.
What the British Brexit Minister David Davis did not bring along though was the generous offer for the future status of EU citizens in the UK that's been all the rumored rage in London lately. Maybe Theresa May plans to serve it up for dessert on Thursday, offering EU leaders at the summit in Brussels something sweet to ease the bitterness of Brexit.
Is it a culinary problem?
For months now, we've been discussing hard- or soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, aka Brexit. At the beginning of the year Prime Minister May was still among those who couldn't have their eggs hard enough. "No breakfast is better than a bad breakfast," or something like that. It really depends on how hungry you are. After losing the election, she seems to have switched to oatmeal. Much healthier anyway. And the consistency of eggs, other foods or Brexit doesn’t seem to be at the top of her list anymore.
Still, one of her three Brexiteers seems to have a sweet tooth. Right about when all the guesswork about Brexit started, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said: "Our policy is having our cake and eating it." Judging by how often it's mentioned, presumably it's an environmentally friendly, renewable cake. Luxembourg's Foreign Minister made his own contribution to Brexit gastronomy: "What we need to negotiate are not peanuts," said Jean Asselborn. Peanut cake? Baked hard or soft?
Couples therapy as a last resort
Divorces bring out the worst in people. A therapist might help if he teaches the partners at the beginning of talks to say something nice to each other. Brexit Minister Davis seems to have learned that lesson:"There is more that unites us than divides us," he told EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, adding that the EU and UK had a deep and special relationship. Very well, but why are we trying to do all this nonsense then? The Prime minister herself gave the answer to that question months ago: "Brexit means Brexit!" A statement of philosophical impenetrability that can only stand alone.
Presents preserve friendship
David Davis obviously didn't want to show up to the party in Brussels empty-handed. After all, he got a free lunch. So he brought his new best friend a book about hiking in order to prevent Michel Barnier from getting lost in the mountains of his home region of Savoy. The Frenchman gave the Brit a hiking stick. The symbolism here is quite overwhelming: Difficult climb, high mountains, deep valleys. And at the end: Caution! Danger of crashing from the rock face!
Running out of time
"The clock is ticking," said Michael Barnier after the first round of talks.
He already had complained about the lost year since the Brexit referendum. Now it was time to finally start: "After all, I can’t negotiate with myself." True, but it wouldn't be such a bad idea. Without a doubt, it would produce the best possible result.
As long as London doesn't provide any directives about the direction of the Brexit journey, Barnier can use his hiking stick to poke around in the fog. Do the Brits want out of the internal market, the customs union or both? In order to rejoin in a different shape or form? David Davis wants a "deal that never in history has been seen before." Seems like he's read too many Trump tweets.
And above all - never mind the hiking stick, why should the EU give the UK a unique deal like that in the first place? "From my side, there is no animosity," said chief negotiator Michel Barnier. In the end, everybody speaks for himself.