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After promising a sovereign Brexit at Lancaster House in January 2017 Theresa May has conceded ground at every turn: a £39bn pay out, an ill-advised transition period effectively keeping Britain in the European Union until the eve of 2021, the application of EU case law, the denial of an independent trade policy, with further concessions over freedom of movement assured.

For a while, it seemed a conventional trade deal assisted by technology to keep the border in Ireland open could be possible. That was David Davis’s firm objective, the now former Brexit Secretary who unlike May had campaigned to Leave the European Union more than two years ago. His solutions were spurned in favour of a catastrophic high-concept customs arrangement that barely anyone pretends is workable. Continued membership of the Customs Union beckons, automatically blocking trade deals with the rest of the world.

Liam Fox, the only Brexiteer of note left in the Cabinet – Davis and Boris Johnson both resigned over May’s proposal, known as the ‘Chequers plan’ – is still talking a good game: a no deal is still an option and perfectly acceptable one. But the prime minister herself shows no such appetite for an outcome that would deliver on every referendum promise and enable Britain to become a truly global trading nation, not to mention a sovereign one.



Hardline Tory Remainers like Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan, Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve together with a number of excessively influential peers have plotted to derail Brexit from day one. Thanks to their efforts to subvert the public will, MPs will be granted a “meaningful vote” on the final deal agreed with the EU. A later amendment by Grieve to strengthen the meaningful vote was fudged at the eleventh hour in backroom talks to the extent that it is not clear what will happen if the prime minister’s deal is voted down. Following publication of the abominable “Chequers plan”, and to Remainers’ horror, it looks increasingly likely that Leaver MPs will be taking advantage of the vote, forcing through a “no deal” Brexit.


Over the course of the negotiations, Theresa May has surrendered to the EU on every count, most notably with the “Irish backstop” whereby either Northern Ireland or the whole of the United Kingdom would remain in the EU’s Customs Union unless an alternative could be found. The government claims it has: Britain should remain part of the EU’s external border while re-establishing an independent trade policy by refunding tariff receipts on goods imports from nations with whom it has struck trade agreements. HM Treasury will do the same on Tariffs collected on those goods destined for the EU market, entailing regular payments to the EU’s coffers. This concept is unworkable, the backstop is anything but.


Labour and the Conservatives were back with a vengeance in 2017, taking the highest combined share of the vote since 1970. But neither succeeded in securing an overall majority, with Northern Ireland’s DUP propping up the Conservatives under a confidence and supply arrangement. The two big parties’ dominance at the polls has only served to further expose internal divisions, predominantly along Brexit lines. Leavers across the spectrum bemoan the democratic deficit. While Thatcherites yearn for greater flexibility under a sovereign commercial policy, traditional Bennites, on the other hand, seek greater freedom to deploy state aid.


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