The European council president Donald Tusk told the European parliament that it was possible to halt Brexit. He suggested that the EU needed to remain united and that the UK had the choice to decide how Brexit ends.

Talking to MEPs he said: “Ahead of us is still the toughest stress test. If we fail it, the negotiations will end in our defeat. We must keep our unity regardless of the direction of the talks. The EU will be able to rise to every scenario as long as we are not divided. It is in fact up to London how this will end: With a good deal, no deal or no Brexit. But in each of these scenarios we will protect our common interest only by being together.”

Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, welcomed Donald Tusk’s comments in the European parliament and said that “No matter what Theresa May says there are still three options on the table. No deal, a deal, or no Brexit. The EU have confirmed what we have been saying all along, if Brexit looks like a disaster we can call the whole thing off.”

But while for Tusk, the UK has the choice to remain, the EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, was more realistic, and in an interview to European media, said that the UK will most likely end up with a trade deal like that of, or similar to, Canada. There are two deals here in question. One is the withdrawal deal, which will set out the terms of the withdrawal and a possible transition period, and the other one is the future trade deal. The trade deal is, according to Barnier, a difficult and lengthy issue, possibly lasting “several years. It is truly unique because instead of promoting regulatory convergence, it will aim to frame a difference. It will involve risks, including about its political ratification, making all the more necessary transparency around these topics.”

Canadian deal

The deal between Canada and the EU is known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The problem with such a deal, which will boost free trade and will eliminate almost 98% of tariffs on imports, is that it won’t facilitate the financial services after Brexit in any way, because they would lose their rights to offer their services in the EU. CETA is ideal for smaller companies and creates opportunities for farmers and food producers. As it is noted in the European Commission’s press release regarding CETA, the agreement benefits “smaller companies who can at least afford the cost of the red tape involved in exporting to Canada. Small businesses will save time and money, for example, by avoiding duplicative product testing requirements, lengthy customs procedures and costly legal fees. Member States' authorities dealing with export promotion stand ready to help businesses to start exporting overseas, boost existing trade, and attract investment.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, reassured the UK that the EU was in no way in a hostile mood. “The commission is not negotiating in a hostile mood. We want a deal. Those who don’t want a deal - the no-dealers - they had no friends in the commission,” he said. Juncker and the EU, ironically, have always wanted to move things forward and negotiate a fair deal for both the EU and the UK. For many in the UK, especially in the right-wing populist camp, failing to secure a deal is an ideal scenario because it will verify their argument, that the EU doesn’t want a deal, it’s hostile and wants to make the UK suffer; which isn’t the case. For example, Farage wants to get out of the EU without a deal, and if Brexit is a total disaster then he can always turn and say, “You see, it’s the European elites’ fault, us the people, the only thing we ever wanted was the best possible Brexit outcome.”

Even Angela Merkel was furious with the fake news coming out about Theresa May’s alleged “begging” during her last week’s dinner with Juncker. Merkel and other European officials are aware that May is a reasonable PM with whom they can negotiate, especially someone, who used to be a Remainer, and who understands the pitfalls of a bad outcome for Brexit. Merkel is also even more worried about the prospect of Boris Johnson becoming a PM, since having to deal with a Brexiteer in the negotiations would be the worst possible scenario for the EU. In this respect, May’s rhetoric, especially after her Florence speech, has softened European officials and opened a new space for the negotiations.

But the possibility of things moving forward or leading nowhere, doesn’t exclude the fact that the economy is reacting, business confidence is waning and household incomes are affected. According to today’s Guardian “Brexit watch” analysis, only a small 30% of people are expecting the Brexit negotiations to have a successful outcome, while 45% of them are pessimistic. The majority of voters concur that if Britain leaves without a deal they would react negatively. 50% are worried, 29% are confused, 24% are furious, while the rest are experiencing a variety of emotions ranging from terror to pride, excitement and even feeling, nothing. Brexit might have been once the will of the people, but it appears to be now more like a drug whose side effects remain unpredictable: from horror, to delusions of grandeur and various states of inebriation, the Brexicholics find it difficult to diagnose and cure something whose repercussions would be long-lasting.