Tuesday, 14 February 2017

It's time we had some Brexit honesty

The closer you look at EU integration the more it would appear that it is irreversible. The EU has a singular talent for accumulating powers in such a way that they can never be fully restored without inflicting considerable damage. I saw film a while back about a climber who got his arm stuck in a rock and was faced with either staying put and slowly starving to death or carving his arm off with a pocketknife. I cannot think of a better metaphor for Brexit.

In our case though, should we sever the arm, we may bleed to death. How we make the cut and where is what matters. For that reason the UK must negotiate a wholly different relationship. Theresa May has it that we will not seek "partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out". Yet the closer you look, the more that seems unlikely. We most certainly will be half in, half out and we most certainly will be paying substantial sums for continued cooperation.

Mrs May will need to come clean about it sooner or later. What that means is we need a governing mechanism for that half in, half out status. It will need safeguard measures and opt outs and that's not going to come without a price tag. Since the government has spurned the one mechanism designed for these very ends, the EEA, we have embarked upon a journey with no known destination. All we know for certain is that Brexiteers are going to be disappointed. Fully escaping the EU's gravitational pull may prove impossible. It's time we had some honesty from this government.

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