Responding to Boris Johnson’s leaked remarks that the UK’s attitude to the Brexit negotiations was gutless, Mrs May, speaking at the G7 summit in Canada, insisted that she also has ‘strong views on Brexit’. ‘That’s why’, she went on, ‘I’m getting on with delivering Brexit’. At the forthcoming summit, she will be ‘pressing’ on our future relationship with the EU. There will, she assured us, be ‘a lot of activity in the negotiations over the coming weeks’, and ‘a lot of activity in the negotiations’. Then, after the summit, she will take the cabinet on ‘an away day at Chequers to finalise the white paper we’re going to be publishing’.
As for those who complain that the government has no vision whatever of ‘our future relationship with the EU’ or plan for leaving it, that a bespoke deal has been rejected by the EU as a fantasy, that the deal we are headed for will be worse than had we stayed in, Mrs May has the answer. For she has ‘put a proposal on the table, on this backstop relating to Northern Ireland’ and ‘we will now sit down and negotiate it with the European Union’.
It is not difficult to predict how these negotiations will proceed. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has rejected both the customs partnership and the maximum facilitation arrangements proposed by the British to avoid a ‘hard’ border in Ireland. And, so, desperate to make a deal, and having made no preparations for the eventuality of ‘no deal’ (this ‘cliff edge’ outcome having been ruled out as ‘catastrophic’), and confronted with the EU, whose position has been consistent from the start (the four freedoms of the single market, including freedom of movement, are ‘indivisible’), we will accede to the EU backstop demands. We will agree indefinitely to maintain ‘full alignment’ with EU rules relating to the customs union and single market, and to the corresponding obligations – paying into the EU, accepting free movement, and accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. As for the coming negotiations concerning a free trade deal, the EU will offer terms so bad (the UK having given away all its bargaining chips) that we will end by agreeing a Norway-style deal: membership of the European Economic Area guaranteeing access to the single market in return for continued financial contributions to the EU, adherence to the rules of the single market, including freedom of movement, but with no voting rights or influence.
So, technically speaking, we will have left the EU. And Mrs May will have ensured that we continue to enjoy the closest possible relationship with our European neighbours. She will have ‘delivered’ Brexit.
There was an alternative (see ‘Brexit; WTO rules Ok?’, 7th December, for the argument for a ‘clean’ Brexit) but sadly there was nobody to provide the vision or leadership that was needed, or to make the necessary preparations. Instead, we are stuck with Mrs May, the fear of Corbyn guaranteeing her hold on power.
The peasants’ revolt is all but over now, and the establishment is back in control. But although the Battle for Britain is lost, the Battle for Europe continues. It remains to be seen whether the Italians, the Austrians, the Danes and the Visegrád Four (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) can yet save Europe, and its civilization, from the clutches of the international bureaucrats and global diversity-mongers of the EU.
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