Big meeting of the cabinet to discuss what Brexit means at Chequers this week. Obviously it means Brexit, but given no one seems able to actually define what “means” means, “Brexit means Brexit” has become a political Mobius strip. How May plans to escape from it is no clearer from what her spokespeople have said this week.
“Several cabinet members made it clear that we are leaving the EU but not leaving Europe, with a decisive view that the model we are seeking is one unique to the United Kingdom and not an off-the-shelf solution. This must mean controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe but also a positive outcome for those who wish to trade goods and services.”
The Guardian headlined an article on this subject “Restricting immigration will be at heart of Brexit deal”, but having read and re-read everything from Number 10 over the last 24 hours, I’m not so sure. It should be noted that the quote I pulled above is yet more gobbledy gook on the subject of what Brexit might look like. I suppose we should be glad that Downing Street is making it clear there are no plans to dislodge the island of Britain from the European continental shelf and attempt to drag it into the middle of the Atlantic, but beyond that this is really more of the same thing we’ve had all summer. Essentially, they want to be in the single market while doing away with freedom of movement, when everyone knows this isn’t possible. And all anyone is told when they point this out is that the EU will give the UK whatever it wants eventually because we’re big and important and Britain and all that.
Something’s got to give at some point – it is unavoidable. The question is whether May knows this and is trying to get round this uncomfortable fact or she’s being drinking from the same well as Liam Fox and thinks everything will inevitably work out for the best, somehow.
No one in government seems willing to let the British people know that a bespoke deal will probably take around ten years to complete at least. What happens during that decade? Are we still in the EU or not throughout this period? It’s really unclear. And if we’re out of the EU after two years and we still don’t have any trade deals, what happens then?
Perhaps the Brexiteers are actually right. Since we’re dealing with a completely novel situation here, who knows. It would give me some heart that they knew what they were doing if they sounded more like they knew what they were talking about.
I should really stop trying to figure out what May is thinking. It’s hard though, when the entire future of the country is at stake.