Hardline Leavers are wrong to claim their ideas were not properly testedby Christopher Grey / September 19, 2018 / Leave a comment
Ever since the Chequers proposal was put forward, the Brexit ultras, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Andrew Bridgen and Andrea Jenkyns, have been adamant that it represents a “betrayal” of the hard Brexit they advocate.
The trouble with that analysis is that the proposal arises not from some Machiavellian sell-out of hard Brexit but from the fact that the hard Brexit approach was tried and it fell at the first encounter with reality. As Bismarck observed, “politics is the art of the possible, of the attainable.” But that truism appears to have few adherents amongst the Brexiters.
For a while, from at least May’s Lancaster House speech, if not her 2016 conference speech, they were well-satisfied with what the government planned: no single market, no form of customs union, no ECJ, and the promise that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” But, in the months since Article 50 was invoked, that has unravelled and the government’s plan, for now at least, is the soggy no man’s land of Chequers.
That slow march from Lancaster House reflects the gradual realisation of the impossibility of hard Brexit. May’s sin is not one of betrayal but of having too readily and recklessly embraced what could not be attained—or at least not without doing a level of damage to the country that no responsible government, and certainly no government that could expect re-election, could entertain.
Thus what May found was that the promises of the hard Brexiters crumbled when she tried to put them into practice. They had promised the electorate that “within minutes of a vote to leave” the bosses of German industry would be on the phone to Angela Merkel, who would insist on a “have cake and eat it” deal. The calls never came. They were never going to.
“May’s sin is not one of betrayal but of having recklessly embraced what could not be attained”
Then, Article 50 was triggered and the hard Brexit plans began to be put to their first serious test, and began to flunk it. An early indication came when “the row of the summer” over the sequencing of the process ended on the first day of the negotiations. Then, all the huffing and puffing about how…