It has been a week to forget for Theresa May. The pro-Brexit newspapers might portray the agreement reached with the EU this week as a great victory. But the reality is that the Government has shown itself to be weaker and more clueless than ever.
Held to ransom by the DUP
A deal was all but announced on Monday, only for the rug to be pulled from under the PM’s feet by the DUP, highlighting just what a vulnerable position she is in. Held to ransom by a party that wants the impossible and represents less than 1% of our population.
Non-existent impact assessments
Then we had the extraordinary scene on Tuesday when David Davis was finally forced to admit that all those Brexit impact assessments – setting things out in ‘excruciating detail’ - have never existed! In the middle of all this, it was easy to miss the admission by Philip Hammond that the Cabinet hasn’t yet even discussed the final outcome that they want when we leave the EU. So they don’t know what they want and have no idea how it will affect us if they get it.
In ordinary times any one of these events would have led to resignations and sackings. But we are not living in ordinary times.
Concessions to the EU
Finally, in the early hours of Friday, an agreement was announced on the issues of the exit bill, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland. This means that they can begin to talk about the really difficult bit: future trade. There’s no getting away from the fact that, despite all the posturing and rhetoric, the Government has had to make huge concessions on the exit bill and EU citizens. The conundrum surrounding Northern Ireland has to a large extent been kicked into the long grass but is not going to go away.
A glimmer of hope
Yet there is a glimmer of hope. There are signs that the Government is backing down on their decision to plough on with a self-harming hard Brexit. One line of the 15-page agreement with the EU says that, “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with the rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.” That sounds rather like staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union. There’s a long way to go, but it might just be a move in the right direction.
One other event that should not go unnoticed this week was the vote by Parliamentarians for their book of the year. Their choice? ‘How to Stop Brexit’. Perhaps they are trying to send us a message. They know it is bad for the country and now more than ever our representatives across all parties should follow the example of Lib Dem MPs and peers and stand up for what they believe in. As the reality of Brexit becomes clearer it is only right that the people should have a say on the final deal with the chance to vote on whether this is what we really want.