A deal brings almighty relief. But there’s still reason to be very afraidby Tom Clark / October 17, 2019 / Leave a comment
1,286 days. That’s how long it has taken to slide from “the day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards” (Michael Gove, 9th April 2016) to “Everyone who has campaigned against no deal [must now]… put their vote where their mouth is” (Damian Green, 17th October 2019), or to put the latter more plainly “any deal will do.”
Theresa May’s former deputy is banging a drum that every loyalist Conservative will now be beating until the Commons votes on Boris Johnson’s deal, assuming it gets that far.
But Green was a referendum Remainer who was then seen as a voice for a relatively soft Brexit after the vote. He, and anyone else from his side of the party, who now swallows Johnson’s deal must digest along with it all the official and other economic analysis which shows how this form of departure, a sharper break for the British mainland than under May’s UK-wide backstop, will depress cross-channel trade and with it prosperity considerably more than would ever have happened under Plan A.
And it’s not only the soft Brexiteers who are having to make painful concessions. The Tory right, and indeed Johnson himself, have previously said it would not be conscionable to divide our kingdom with new trade borders in the Irish Sea. Well, the unthinkable has had to be thought there. And in areas such as VAT Northern Ireland now looks likely to end up bound in more closely to Dublin than it would have been under the May plan.
Arguably an even bigger concession for the free market right, with its dream of a deregulated Singapore-style offshore economy, is the insistence in the political declaration that the UK must uphold current standards in areas such as the “environment, climate change and relevant tax matters.” That had to stay in there, presumably, to assuage European anxieties about being undercut, but it could also help Johnson woo over those wavering Labour MPs, most from heavily Leave seats, who feel duty bound by the 2016 result to find a way to “get Brexit done.”
Those Labour MPs will now also feel, with special intensity, the heat that the government will seek to apply right across the opposition benches as well as towards potential anti-hard Brexit rebels among the Conservatives and the 20-odd former Tories who have been officially banished. Johnson’s…