Last week’s confidence vote leaves the Government right about the Protocol’s operability but less capable of acting to improve it.
Sefcovic’s language in response was more assuaging than we have seen from Brussels in previous UK-EU rows.
The Government could dangle before the EU another gain it wants in order to win a revised Protocol.
With the Assembly elections in May fast approaching, it is clear that there is a finite time horizon for these negotiations to bear fruit.
That Switzerland and New Zealand each have their own arrangements suggests that a bespoke arrangement ought to be possible.
Were clause 4 of Article 5 amended as I suggest, the Protocol would have much of the flexibility it needs to work to the satisfaction of all parties.
And the longer the impasse goes on, the stronger argument becomes that hypothetical risks to the Single Market are overriding political stability.
One would suspect that the Government’s primary objective will be to stabilise and bed down the new relationship with Brussels.
The EU’s missteps over the last week have provided an excellent opportunity to seek changes to the Protocol that might provide for a more durable settlement.
What implications are there for the wider trade relationship? On the one hand, it builds goodwill. Equally, it reduces the political cost of No Deal.