21 April 2018
In their final shot at derailing Brexit, Remainers are quietly deserting the cause of a new referendum. Instead they are rallying to the campaign to cleave unto the EU Customs Union, the most recent manifestation of “Brexit In Name Only”. As it happens, each of these courses rests upon three shaky premises, irresistibly bringing to mind the six impossible things which Alice’s White Queen managed to believe before breakfast. On a more serious note, the reasons for the collapse of the first course foreshadow the shipwreck of the second. Let’s take a look.
In the last week or so, Remainers have pretty much given up their hopes of action in the courts or parliament to introduce a second referendum which would lead the EU27 to permit the UK to abandon the Article 50 process. This is because the three impossible things underpinning this scheme have proved beyond credit.
All of this takes place amid polling this week, showing no appetite to reverse Brexit and greater commitment by Leavers.
With the first three impossible beliefs underpinning a second referendum proving - well, impossible, Remainers are settling on their last throw. This is to stay in the Customs Union, as (they argue), no-one voted to get out of it; there is no other solution to the Irish border; and it may well command a parliamentary majority. Those of a conspiratorial temperament go further to have it that this is what the PM - originally a lukewarm Remainer - secretly wants. Once again, however, this calls for us to believe three impossible things.
Let’s take a step back. So far from having a secret plan, May has consistently said she expects the UK to leave the Customs Union. She knows as well as anyone else that there is no point in leaving the EU, if we can’t set our own external tariff or negotiate our own trade deals. Nor is there any need to revisit the matter: it was ventilated in full during the referendum campaign. Finally the polls reinforce that such a course would be politically poisonous. It’s true that one should never say “never”, but doesn’t it seem wiser to treat this whole Customs Union malarkey as the final round of the Remainers’ denial? It’s certainly capturing this weekend’s headlines, but I’d be moving on from the illumination offered by the White Queen’s “…six impossible things…” to the Lord of Dunsinane’s “…sound and fury…” Anyone remember what that signified?