What will emerge from the Brexit negotiations we do not know, other than that it will demonstrate superbly the strength of the negotiating hand played by the EU, and the weakness of that deployed by the UK. But what we do know from events thus far is that all those great expectations of the immediate post-Article 50 days are slowly but surely being dashed, as reality takes hold. And that situation is about to get much worse.
The drive to enter what was then the EEC came from business; likewise, the drive to divert the Tories away from anything resembling cliff-edge “Hard Brexit” has also come from that direction. Business abhors any prospect of obstacles to carrying on, well, business as usual. And for the most part, that means keeping rules and regulations aligned with our largest trading partner - the rest of the Single Market.
Moreover, if we are to achieve alignment with the rest of the Single Market, that means steering well away from anything that would get in the way of “frictionless” free trade. So it also means remaining in some kind of Customs Union. As there already is a Customs Union, and we are already in that Union, it would make sense to all those businesses for the UK to remain part of it. And it would sort the Irish border issue.
But, the response would inevitably come, what about the potential split in the Tory Party? Two things here. One, the Tories know that, with Jeremy Corbyn waiting in the wings, it’s either Theresa May’s road, or no road. And two, “British prime minister Theresa May’s team has privately admitted she might have to accept Permanent membership of the EU customs union”. Not just that, the Tories have gamed the potential fallout.
Their conclusion? “It follows a secret wargaming exercise which concluded, according to the report, that even Brexiteers such as Michael Gove and David Davis would not resign in protest. However, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox would be likely to quit”. Fox is expendable and should never have been allowed back into cabinet. Whether Gove stays and Bozza goes is less certain - but Rupert Murdoch needs his man at the top table.
Business Insider has expanded on the news: “The prime minister and her Cabinet have repeatedly promised that Britain will leave the EU Customs Union and not join any similar arrangement [but Theresa] May's senior advisers now privately concede that a U-turn could be inevitable with one reportedly telling a meeting last month that the prime minister and her top team ‘will not be crying into our beer’ if they are forced to think again about cutting customs ties with the EU”. There will, of course, be further opposition.
The member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg will be appalled at such ghastly news, but what’s he going to do, join UKIP? Andrew Bridgen is opposed, but then, who cares? Most likely is that the PM’s team has played out all the options and concluded that this is the one where she has the least chance of being toppled.
There is, of course, a far better option than to keep on trying to achieve the great Brexit dream and continuing to fail miserably, and that is to realise that to do so would screw over the entire country - so the best choice would be one that does not actually involve leaving the EU. Especially as the legitimacy of the vote is now looking increasingly shaky.
As for the press - well, they have to go with Ms May. Or they, too, are screwed.