I would highly recommend, to my Remainer readers especially, reading Dominic Cummings blog, at least when he writes about Brexit. That may seem counterintuitive, but I do so because Cummings’ blog is like an oasis in a sea of Brexit insanity; he is now, sadly, one of the only Leavers who writes about leaving the EU without embedding huge dollops of mystical lunacy into every article. Disagree with him (I do), and recognise he has an agenda, but at least enjoy the fact that he understands what is actually going on with the negotiations in a way that seemingly no other pro-Brexit figure does at present.
In his latest entry, Dominic says that the government triggering Article 50 when they did was a colossal error of epoch defining proportions (I’m paraphrasing here). Basically, to have done so when the government a). had no real plan for what Brexit would look like, other than hoping the EU would panic and then just let Britain have any sort of a la carte deal it wanted b). hadn’t spoken to the EU sufficiently about those plans and thus knew what the two year timetable would roughly look like; and c). without having made any plans nor created any infrastructure for simply leaving the single market and the customs union if no deal could be struck, was one of the loopiest things any British government has ever done.
This gets to the heart of the matter: as soon as May triggered Article 50 when she did, a soft Brexit, or a never-ending transition, became inevitable. The talk of “let’s walk away with no deal” from certain quarters is all bluster now; it would unquestionably be a disaster, because the government has made no preparations whatsoever for such an event; Cummings is one of the few Leavers to recognise this point (in fact, he may well be the only one, come to think of it). This means the EU holds all the cards; it wants the UK to stay in everything, pretty much, and so I can’t see how that’s avoidable, unless the government suddenly decides that is a lot worse than just remaining in the EU (which it is), something that is very hard to see happening.
What I have found so odd about the negotiations to date is the bluster about breaking all the rules but without any of the rule breaking that would have, at least in theory, improved the UK’s negotiating position taken up. Triggering Article 50 was the quintessence of this. If you’re going to walk around saying you won’t pay a penny and will essentially default on what you owe to the supranational body of which you have been a member for over forty years, why bother to play their game and trigger Article 50 at all? Why not start trying to make trade deals and force the EU to take action? I mean, if you’re going to tip the board over anyhow, why not at least do stuff that helps you get to your stated destination instead of things that will impeded you?
The triggering of Article 50 is where historians will see the downfall of Brexit, I think. Would have been interesting to see how things could have been different, but we’ll never know.