Well. If you were still scratching your head and wondering if Brexit was the child of Tory Party infighting, this morning you can stop scratching. David Cameron called a referendum in an effort to see off the non-conformists in his Cabinet and party; today we see that division still gaping. David Davis, the chief negotiator, the man who was supposed to be the bridge between the hardliners like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson on one side and Theresa May and Philip Hammond on the other, has just quit. And he hasn’t quit because he’s tired being a bridge. He’s quit because he thinks Theresa May’s suggested plan (which he signed up to on Friday – maybe stop hanging around with DUPers, David?) is no good. He wouldn’t, like Boris, call it polishing a turd, but in the end that’s what he believes it is.
EU leaders must be remembering that old Noel Coward song “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”. As the ship of state sails ever closer to the point where it either hits the rocks or heads for relatively quieter waters, the Brits are still at each other’s throats.
And the EU leaders must be wondering why an aural version of ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ isn’t flourishing in Britain. Weeks and months ago the EU made it clear that Britain couldn’t cherry-pick the bits of EU regulations it likes and leave the bits it doesn’t. Only about a week ago, Leo Varadkar said that Britain must realize that the four freedoms involving the free movement of goods, services, people and capital were not divisible. You couldn’t go for three freedoms or one freedom or three and a half freedoms. You had to accept the four freedoms or none.
But here’s the thing: Theresa May’s clever plan from Friday – the one that David Davis thought was too soft – was one which was going to play down any question of freedom of services. The EU has already said, and Leo has echoed, that such divergence is a non-starter. But here we have Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator saying the ‘common rule book’ that Theresa has proposed is a step too far.
In short, the soft-Brexit version that the Tory Cabinet planned to offer hadn’t a hope in hell of acceptance by the EU. So you can imagine the EU reaction to a tougher Tory Cabinet version that would satisfy the likes of Bors and Jacob.
And as they wrangle on and on, the deadline looms. This morning on the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme, David Davis told John Humphreys not to worry about Ocober as a deadline, these things always went to the last day, the last minute in the EU. So now our much-postponed back-stop won’t really get settled until next March. Things go from bad to bloody awful.
Still, maybe England winning the World Cup will improve the mood in the Tory Party Cabinet and we’ll see them offer a sort-of reasonable set of relationships to the EU. And they are going to win the World Cup, of course, just as they’ll be able to bend the EU to Britain’s will- right, Virginia? …Virginia – where are you?