Most of us have been in no doubt over who is to blame for the obstacles and burning barricades blocking our route to a viable trade deal.
Emmanuel Macron, the sharp-suited, sharp-nosed President of France, has been in the vanguard of those wanting to punish Britain for daring to leave. Desperate to preserve the advantages enjoyed by French fishermen. Desperate to be the saviour of the whole European project.
However, Macron is by no means alone in conducting this unpleasant campaign of sabotage. For, as The Mail on Sunday explains today, his sensibly-suited counterpart in Germany, Angela Merkel, has played her own discreditable role.
It is Chancellor Merkel who has consistently presented herself as the voice of common sense and compromise.
Emmanuel Macron’s sensibly-suited counterpart in Germany, Angela Merkel, has played her own discreditable role in conducting this unpleasant campaign of trade deal sabotage, writes DOUGLAS MURRAY
Yet it is Merkel who has completely failed to understand Great Britain and misjudged it – and it is she who must take prime responsibility for the EU’s calamitous negotiating stance. It is, in part, a personal matter.
Angela Merkel is the daughter of a Lutheran pastor.
Known as Mutti – or Mummy – to voters, her formative years were in East Germany, the Communist state ruled over by the Stasi.
Like others, she belonged the Free German Youth (FDJ), the official communist youth movement.
Rectitude and certainty pour from her. And she has no time for Boris Johnson, a man she dismisses – with remarkable condescension – as no more than a dissembler and a libertine.
Emmanuel Macron, the sharp-suited, sharp-nosed President of France, has been in the vanguard of those wanting to punish Britain for daring to leave, writes DOUGLAS MURRAY
Despite his huge parliamentary majority and the certainty that he speaks for millions, she refuses to trust the Prime Minister or believe him. And, however calmly she projects herself before the cameras, she has been utterly unbending behind closed doors.
We have seen Merkel’s handiwork before.
In 2016, our then Prime Minister, David Cameron, paid a last-ditch visit to Brussels to negotiate a better arrangement with the EU ahead of the referendum.
Cameron begged his European counterparts to give him a meaningful concession, one that would allow him to argue that remaining within the bloc would be to our advantage.
But Merkel and the EU sent him packing. Months later the UK voted to leave entirely.
We can’t blame Macron for these events, which all happened a year before he was seriously in the running for the French presidency.
The only major player from that disastrous episode still in post today is the Chancellor herself, the great survivor of European politics now into her 15th year of rule.
In 2016, Merkel believed that the EU must be seen to be rigidly inflexible and that David Cameron (pictured with Merkel in 2015) must be given no new concessions for fear that other nations might demand flexibility in turn, writes DOUGLAS MURRAY
Then, as now, Merkel had a reputation for hard-headed efficiency.
But, while it is true she helped guide the continent through the Eurozone crisis, she did so with an authoritarian rigidity which still sees her loathed in much of southern Europe.
Despite its vast trade profits, Germany refused to bail out the ‘feckless’ Mediterranean neighbours who had been stupid enough to buy its products.
Then, in 2015, it was Merkel who made the calamitous decision to open the borders of Europe. She did not consult her counterparts.
She simply did it, single-handedly turning a migrant challenge into a migrant crisis.
Even now, an unrecalcitrant Merkel continues to try to punish those countries in Central and Eastern Europe which refuse to pay for her errors and accept large quotas of migrants themselves.
For all her reputation as a pragmatic political performer, her flaws have been obvious for years: Unyielding when she ought to yield.
Merkel has no time for Boris Johnson (pictured on Saturday), a man she dismisses – with remarkable condescension – as no more than a dissembler and a libertine, writes DOUGLAS MURRAY
Authoritarian while presenting herself as a champion of liberty. Feted as uniquely insightful, yet wildly off-beam in her most basic political calculations.
In 2016, Merkel believed that the EU must be seen to be rigidly inflexible and that Cameron must be given no new concessions for fear that other nations might demand flexibility in turn.
But – and not for the first time – it was a huge miscalculation. Despite mounting evidence that British voters were fed up, Merkel refused to believe that we would leave. A major error and a dereliction of her duty to understand her counterparts.
Today we see the same pattern – bad advice combined with belligerence. Once again, the German Chancellor has started from the assumption that Britain will not leave the EU without a deal. Once again, she has refused to believe the clearest possible assertions from the Prime Minister that we will.
The advice that Merkel received from her side was that Boris was bluffing. And so she resumed her role as unbending negotiator.
Doubtless, she believes that Britain will move her way. Doubtless, as in 2016, she is completely wrong.
This is not the first time she has been accused of behind-the-scenes manipulation. According to a 2013 biography, Merkel was no mere cultural officer of the Free German Youth, but a higher ranking ‘Agitation and Propaganda functionary’ – claims she has never openly denied.
Known as Mutti – or Mummy – to voters, Merkel’s formative years were in East Germany, the Communist state ruled over by the Stasi, writes DOUGLAS MURRAY
Whatever the truth, we can be certain that Merkel has received provably wrong advice at every step of the way in the Brexit negotiations – and acted upon it. And it is her failure to understand this country that now makes a No Deal departure so likely.
Were she truly a pragmatist, she would have tried to make these negotiations work. A good and workable UK-EU trade deal would be to the benefit of the whole continent.
Millions of people across the EU work in businesses which need access to our markets. Any reasonable and pragmatic EU leader would have the livelihoods of those people in mind and negotiated on their behalf.
Instead, the EU stance is both immoderate and unstable. And that derives from the qualities for which she has been so often lauded. An inflexibility. An authoritarian efficiency. An instinctive distrust of her negotiating partners.
Push them and they will crumble, is the advice she has been doling out to the EU leaders. And they have pushed. But there is no evidence that we will crumble.
What has crumbled is the reputation of the Chancellor as the fair-minded pragmatist. She is no such thing. Mutti is an ideologue who destroys the very things she is meant to be protecting.