Let’s be fair and lower the expectations of Britain’s negotiating team around the conference tables of the European Union in Brussels.
Not only are they playing away, but the pressure on an early goal in the form a settlement on the rights of British and EU expats will take more than a few days to thrash out.
Brexit entered the second round of talks this week.
The first was a ‘getting to know you’ session with some basic chat about what each side wanted to achieve.
The second started on Monday and involves some serious bargaining about the rights of EU migrants to stay in the UK and for British expats to live and work in the EU.
Lack of preparedness
Much has been made of the seeming lack of preparedness of Brexit secretary David Davis.
However, just because his papers were not out on the table does not mean he did not have them at his feet in a briefcase.
He also left the talks early to take part in Westminster votes, which is understandable as Prime Minister Theresa May and her Tories have such a narrow majority.
Former head civil servant Gus O’Donnell has commented on the massive task facing Brexit negotiators.
“We keep being told by our politicians that Brexit can be delivered easily,” he said.
“This isn’t correct. Believe me, we are embarking on a massive venture. There is no way all these changes will happen smoothly and absolutely no chance that all the details will be hammered out in 20 months.”
Besides the big issues of expat rights, Britain’s alleged divorce settlement and a trade deal, even the smallest details need ironing out under the agenda of ‘other separation issues’.
These include who pays university fees in the UK for EU students, EU civil service pensions, how imports and exports will continue and contributions towards infrastructure projects in Eastern Europe.
Then the talks move on to more important issues like police and security co-operation; foreign policy, data protection, banking and financial services.
Parliament has cleared the way for the first two years of uncoupling and rewriting the rule books, but the odds are unscrambling 40 years of European collaboration will take much longer.
Let’s just hope the negotiations do not go to extra time or penalties as Britain does not have a good record on either in Europe.