The proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs territory, something “no UK Prime Minster could ever agree to”, seems to be a clear attempt to make Brexit difficult enough to be thwarted or watered down.
As the prospect of a no deal outcome looms large again, it is important to recognise that for the EU, defeating Brexit is as much a political project as the euro was.
The aim is the same: to create and hold together the United States of Europe.
Brussels feels strong enough to force conditions on the UK relying on the much-touted united stance of the remaining 27 member states.
It is trying to reinforce that unity by explicitly barring individual members from dealing directly with the UK.
This discipline has held up so far because all member states were interested in the favourable settlement of the UK’s “divorce bill” to protect their share of funds.
This formidable “unity” has made its way into the British Remainer psyche as the image of a Roman phalanx facing the lonely UK with an unbreakable facade.
The image is false. The EU edifice is brittle and torn apart by increasing economic and political tensions amongst its three major regions of conflicting interests and priorities: Northern, Southern and Central Europe.
The South has serious economic problems. While calls to leave the EU are still relatively scarce, there are growing demands to quit the Euro, which is identified as the economic blunder mainly responsible for the Mediterranean region’s indebtedness and grave unemployment problems.
The migrant crisis also drove home the lack of “European solidarity” as Italy and Greece have largely been abandoned to deal with the huge waves of migrants landing on their shores as best they can.
Southern Europe wants no rupture with the UK but their governments feel obliged to toe the Brussels line, at least for now.
Central Europe used to be considered, mistakenly, the EU’s “success story”, generally happy with the status quo.
Lately, however, the Visegrád countries have shocked Brussels with their firm refusal to accept the forced allocation of migrants.
The European Commission is now suing the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland at the Court of Justice of the European Union for “non-compliance with their legal obligations” on the relocation of migrants.
As everywhere else in Europe, in Central Europe there is a schism between the ruling political class and the citizens. Just as in the UK, the big multinational companies operating in Central Europe strongly support EUmembership, and because of their unhealthily dominant economic power they have concomitantly disproportionate political influence as well.
In contrast, the majority of citizens are much less than delighted by the reality of their version of EUmembership.
They dislike their economic dependency, Brussels’ constant meddling in their internal affairs, and the abandon with which EU bureaucrats and politicians lecture them on “European values” without having any knowledge and even less interest in their culture, traditions and history.
They are deeply upset by the EU’s attack on their sovereignty by forcing migrant quotas on them.
Central European countries joined the EU in the hope of being sovereign members of a loose alliance conducive to economic development.
At no time have they voted to become part of a United Nations of Europe and surrender their much fought-for sovereignty.
They have just become independent after 45 years of Soviet military occupation, which subjected them to a devastating socioeconomic experiment called socialism.
The last thing Central Europeans wish for is being the guinea pigs of another foreign power’s experiment in creating a nationless superstate run by unelected bureaucrats.
The UK voted for Brexit to get back her sovereignty. Sovereignty is exactly what most European citizens want as well.
They watch with great sympathy the UK breaking the path towards freedom, and watch with dismay the EU’s punitive negotiating tactics to deter others from even thinking of leaving. Central Europe has experienced this before: nobody was allowed to leave the Warsaw Pact.
The UK is not alone. Millions wish her well and would probably join her if they could.
Andrea Hossó is a Hungarian economist working in the City of London and member of Economists for Free Trade