It was Boris Johnson's diplomatic chat-up line that signaled that a deal was finally imminent.
"They look fresh," said the Prime Minister to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, "for someone who has been counting fish all night."
The comment came on Christmas Eve morning, after Mr Johnson had just finished a run with his dog Dilyn and marked the end of 11 months of lengthy negotiations over mackerel quotas and car tariffs.
Talks eventually ended with the £ 660 billion trade deal that lifted the Covid-induced obscurity on Downing Street.
It was Boris Johnson's diplomatic chat-up line (pictured) that signaled that a deal was finally imminent
Mr Johnson has told Allies that he used the "hardball" strategy of British negotiator David Frost and his deputy Oliver Lewis for the successful outcome, and in particular the controversial decision in October to break international law by passing laws lifting restrictions on the country Brexit divorce deal writes pays tribute to Northern Ireland.
The move has been condemned by five former prime ministers – but is seen in No. 10 as the moment when the granite-faced EU approach began to crack.
Shortly thereafter, Ms. von der Leyen stepped alongside the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, and took effective control of the talks.
While working long days and nights in dreary Covid-compliant conference rooms in Brussels and London, Lord Frost's team was inspired by 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who once said of his diplomatic strategy of this combined charm and threat: “With A Gentleman I'm always a gentleman and a half, and when I have to deal with a pirate, I try to be a pirate and a half. & # 39;
"They look fresh," said the Prime Minister to Ursula von der Leyen (picture), President of the European Commission, "for someone who has been counting fish all night".
The "pirate" moment in Britain came when No. 10 introduced the Single Market Draft to deal with the Northern Ireland issue, which Tony Blair and Sir John Major described as "irresponsible, wrong in principle and dangerous in practice".
Theresa May, David Cameron and Gordon Brown soon added their voices to criticism.
But Frost and Lewis had calculated that Brussels could blackmail London because the Brexit divorce deal imposed a new bureaucracy on trade across the Irish Sea – by leaving Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods – London by enacting an agreement on its own Conditions to extort the threat of tariffs on goods from the mainland.
Within weeks of the government's introduction of the law, the EU collapsed: Cabinet Minister Michael Gove agreed with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic that in the event of a no deal, 98 percent of goods crossing the Irish Sea would be customs duties would be free. Now that a deal has been struck, it's 100 percent.
A source from the UK negotiating team said: “The EU threatened to separate Northern Ireland from the mainland.
"Michael's deal removed its leverage and ensured we got much better terms in the final deal on issues like fish and EU regulations."
When the cabinet met last week to discuss the deal, Mr Gove reiterated the prime minister, saying that the single market law was a tactic that "unlocked the outcome".
Downing Street officials are full of praise for "calm, serene, and professional" Frau von der Leyen – or "VDL" as the negotiators called her – for breaking the impasse created by Mr Barnier's stubbornness and the sheer self-interest was caused by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.
The source added, “In October we broke intransigence. VDL had already wounded Barnier by vetoing that the European Court of Justice should remain supreme authority over Britain, but when we landed the Single Market Act on it, it completely killed him. & # 39;
It was a complicated advertisement.
No. 10 had hoped that Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen's scallops, turbot and pavlova dinner in Brussels on December 9th would bring a breakthrough, as Britain proposed an agreement based on the acceptance of certain tariffs in return for the Exemption from EU regulations was based.
But behind the scenes, French President Macron and Chancellor Merkel opposed the idea, fearing that Britain would appear on its doorstep as a dynamic and attractive Singapore-style market.
That fear prompted the UK's determination to crawl on broken glass – as a negotiator told The Mail on Sunday – before it got a deal, and explains why the plan “tariffs for freedom “Got a cool response.
After taking off their masks to pose for the official photos in front of that unfortunate meal, Ms. von der Leyen urged Mr. Johnson to “keep your distance” and told the Prime Minister to mutter in response, “You are driving in here tight ship, Ursula. And quite right too. & # 39;
The chemistry between Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen was strained on Monday when the EU kicked in its "hammer" – the risk of billions of pounds in tariffs if the UK rejected one of the fishing rights agreements.
Mr Johnson told her that he would never accept such a penalty clause and said, "I cannot sign and I will not sign."
In their native German, he added: "A lot of lobster, no hammer" – "a lot of lobster, no hammer".
But when Ms. von der Leyen sent her highly regarded advisor Stephanie Riso, deputy head of cabinet, to last week's talks, it was seen as a sign that a deal was back on the table.
In the final hours of the negotiations there was a direct dispute between Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen over the duration of the fish agreement.
Mr Barnier's original request for a 14-year contract was reduced to the point that Mr Johnson asked for it for five years and Ms von der Leyen for six years.
For this reason, a compromise of five and a half was reached, whereby EU boats have to give up a quarter of the catch landed in our waters.
Mr Johnson's "fresh" flirtation with Frau von der Leyen came after a long night of splicing and dicing quotas for cod, herring, mackerel and tuna, coupled with assurances from EU fishermen about a mechanism to prevent Britain from getting its own Keeping promises.
After grueling shifts with some negotiators saying they had to "wash their underwear in the hotel room sink," a deal seemed certain by Wednesday evening for the newspapers to get the details on Thursday.
However, it was to be delayed again as a last-minute three percent discrepancy appeared in UK fish stock estimates.
When a relieved Mr. Johnson announced the deal at a press conference that afternoon, the world was treated to lightning bolts from the lively old Boris as he wisely navigated the questions.
After months of relentless Covid misery, the prime minister appeared to be back in his political comfort zone.
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