Tuesday, 13 November 2018

It's not the end game yet

Putting on the strongest and stablest face she can muster, whilst at the same time looking sufficiently serious and determined, the Prime Minister has told us we’re now entering the end game of the Brexit talks with the rest of the EU.  The detail of what she is about to agree with Brussels seems not to have been fully shared with the rest of the Cabinet so far, let alone the rest of us, but one ex-member of the Cabinet has already declared that what she is going to propose amounts to ‘total surrender’.  I assume that he means surrender to ‘Brussels’ rather than the truth, which is that it is, at last, a surrender to reality.  The situation today is, in effect, no different to that which existed when Article 50 was triggered – the promise of the ‘exact same benefits’ without the obligations of membership is simply not on the table and could never have been.
If a deal is done at all, it will inevitably mean tying the UK into the EU’s rules for longer and more completely than the Prime Minister has admitted to date, despite her continuing denials.  Finding a way out of the situation into which her own red lines have painted her will be neither quick nor easy, even if she manages to get her ministers and parliament to sign up to it.  If this is indeed the end game, it is such only for the Prime Minister herself.  In relation to Brexit, the words of one of her own predecessors come to mind – it’s not so much the beginning of the end as the end of the beginning.  If Brexit itself isn’t halted, then it is going to remain more of a process than an event, probably taking at least a decade before it finally happens.  And that’s a truth which neither the government nor the main opposition party is yet willing to face.

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