All week I have had at the back of my mind the idea of writing something about where we are – on Brexit, on everything in UK politics at the moment – without really knowing what to say. Everything comes down to “the deal” – which is not, amazingly enough, going to be a deal at all, but rather the vague outline of a possible, future deal, with the actual legal commitments entered into being to formalise what happens along the way if that deal doesn’t happen, or at least takes longer than expected.
Anyhow, “the deal” is expected to be announced next week, apparently. Again, this is mere rumours and could change any time. Cutting through the heavy semantics that will no doubt be involved, we already know what “the deal” will be: after March 29th of next year, the UK enters a “transition period” that could be due to end in December 2020, or December 2021; the transition is to a new trade deal between the UK and the EU, the details of which are going to be, putting this politely, a little bare bones at this point; if a deal does not arise between the UK and the EU during the transition period, the backstop is triggered, which will amount to the UK staying in the Customs Union and almost certainly the Single Market for goods at the very least, possibly for a very long time, possibly forever.
The only question now is whether this gets through parliament or not – and if does not, what happens next. The variables are too many to even begin to predict. So, we wait.
I was thinking today that Jeremy Corbyn not coming out for the People’s Vote in public actually makes it more likely to happen than if he had. Think about it: parliament votes down “the deal”; could be that a second referendum is all there is left in the end. Yet if it is seen to be a Labour thing, this will scare away Tory MPs, even those most predisposed to the People’s Vote, from voting for it. If it isn’t anyone’s policy, it thus has more of a chance of happening. How 2018 is that then?
Meanwhile we all talk about a no deal scenario that is incredibly unlikely to unfold, yet without knowing the exact way in which it will be avoided given it is the default setting. It’s like being in a car that is going down a perfectly straight road towards a giant brick wall with five people inside, all of whom can drive perfectly well, yet none of whom are driving at present. You think, one of them will take the wheel and stop the car, surely, or turn it around, or do something before they all hit the brick wall. Yet, I suppose not. Three of them will assume that someone will grab the wheel at the last second and they don’t want it to have to be them; one of them is sure the brick wall is an illusion; the fifth one is actually thinking that hitting a brick wall might be good for him and everyone else inside the vehicle.