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This means offering the UK the best deal they can consistent with the principles of EU law and treaties - thus Barnier's brilliant stairs graphic that shows the best deals the EU can offer given apparent UK insistence on various "red lines" (otherwise known as shit May decided to say to keep some group or the other on her side for a week and then doubled down on because she confuses inflexibility with strength).
But I think the fuller explanation - which you have averred to elsewhere - is that the EU is an incredibly rule bound institution with very specific Treaty derived competencies which define very precisely what it can and can't do or offer to the UK. Unlike the UK government, it can't make up policy on the hoof.
Specifically it can't offer a deal which:
Sure, the EU can discuss a "bespoke" deal, because all those arrangements are in some sense bespoke. But they all took a very long time to negotiate and ratify. If the UK wants any deal any time soon, it can't stray too far from an established template.
I think part of the problem is that UK commentators believe their own propaganda about an all powerful Brussels bureaucracy which can ride roughshod over member states - as they claim it has done over the UK. The reality is that the EU only has those powers specifically delegated to it by member states (including the UK) by unanimous consent. That doesn't include being very generous to third parties: ask other independent states about how easy it is to do business with the EU...
Index of Frank's Diaries
The draft negotiating guidelines echo an agreement among the 27 other EU national leaders in April that Britain would remain bound by essentially all EU rules in the transition but without a say in making them. [...]
Britain cannot put new bilateral trade treaties with other countries into effect during the transition period as the EU insists Britain go on collecting EU customs duties as if it were still a member, the official said.
It's part of the Brexit narrative: EU is a racket and since the Britons want to escape to freedom, the Eurocrats want to punish them, out of sheer spite and to terrorize the other hostages members.
The myth of nasty Continentals is so powerful that even pro-EU commentators can't help buying into it, as you noted (why can't you tolerate our intolerance?).
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