And so, finally, Theresa May got her deal. And what a deal it is! Walking on water, she managed to square away the impossibility of combining life outside the single market with no hard border in Ireland. How? By kicking the can down the road through the use of the studiously ambiguous formulation of “regulatory alignment” between the EU and the whole of the UK, though perhaps fortunately nobody actually knows what alignment means. Presumably, we’ll shortly be hearing that it means alignment.
She also managed to guarantee a great trade deal for the UK by promising to pay an amount which is probably around £40 billion – though it could be a lot higher, nobody knows yet; and actually, it’s clear from the EU and indeed from Philip Hammond that agreeing to pay the money doesn’t guarantee us any kind of deal at all.
The UK also accepted that the ECJ will have a say over EU citizens in the UK for eight years; and that UK citizens in the EU will have a right to continue living in the EU, but not apparently to move to another EU country subsequently. Meanwhile, EU citizens will have the full right to remain in the UK.
It is hard to see, at this stage, which of the Brextremists red lines haven’t been crossed. We are going to be paying lot of money – £350 million a week for the next two or three years – to remain in close regulatory alignment with the EU and with the ECJ having some say over EU citizens in our country, probably indefinitely. All the responsibility of membership; none of the power.
Liam Fox told us that the EU trade negotiation will be one of “the easiest in human history” and what the past few months have shown is that he was absolutely correct. The negotiations will indeed be easy – for Barnier.
In the preliminary talks, we are at least holding hostage 3 million EU citizens, while they had only 1.3 million of ours. When it comes to trade, we sell 44% of our exports to the EU while no EU country exports more than 8% of their goods to us. “They need us more than we need them”? What utter bollocks. (As a patriotic Brit, I truly wish it were so; as a clear-headed realist, I know it’s sadly not).
At least the economic impact studies will be able to give our negotiating team some guidance. Not much, it’s true, as they don’t apparently exist – but more guidance than they can get from the cabinet which, 18 months after the dreadful day, still hasn’t sat down to determine what sort of Brexit it wants. Not a typo, no…..having had a year and a half to prepare, apparently the cabinet has never had a full discussion about the type of Brexit it wants.
If Britain were a company and the government were its board of directors, they’d not only be fired but face charges of gross negligence. And why do we find ourselves here? Because, once again, the preservation of the Conservative Party’s fragile unity is taking precedence over the good of the country. And a real debater over Brexit can easily shatter that fake unity.
It is time to face up to the fact – an entire nation is being held to ransom because 50 evangelical, fanatical Brextremists are threatening to topple their own government and refuse to see the facts before their very eyes. It is time for all real Conservatives (and many former Conservatives) to stand up and fight them, before it’s too late. Above all, it’s time for those MPs who are knowingly supporting a Brexit they fully understand to be a disaster for the UK to find their principles.