In might have looked like a shambolic chaos to the outside world, but this week, our government and preparations for Brexit have taken a huge leap forward. The Prime Minister put on a commanding performance in the House on Monday, demonstrating that she has got her mojo back following our disastrous election last year. The cabinet changes have strengthened the team.
After all the meanderings of the past two years we now have a clear plan to make Brexit work, which honours the vote of the British people but does not wreck our economy.
The agreement reached by the cabinet at Chequers last weekend is a breakthrough. I do not expect many constituents to soak themselves in the detail but here is roughly what it means (and I have lifted this word-for-word from the PM’s speech to the Commons on Monday):
“It means leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019; a complete end to free movement, and taking back control of our borders; an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK, restoring the supremacy of British courts; no more sending vast sums of money each year to the EU, but instead a Brexit dividend to spend on domestic priorities such as our long-term plan for the NHS; flexibility on services, in which the UK is world-leading; no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain; a parliamentary lock on all new rules and regulations; leaving the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy; the freedom to strike new trade deals around the world; an independent foreign and defence policy—but not the most distant relationship possible with our neighbours and friends; instead, a new deep and special partnership. It means frictionless trade in goods; shared commitments to high standards, so that together we continue to promote open and fair trade; and continued security co-operation to keep our people safe. This is the Brexit that is in our national interest.”
Obviously we now have to negotiate this with our EU partners. There will be some give and take, but wriggle-room in the UK is now limited. Parliament will not want to see this much watered down. If the EU do not embrace this moment, we might still be looking at coming out with no deal – the political equivalent of tombstoning - which is something most of us want to avoid.