Power without responsibility

Rafael Behr points out:

A clique of Tory ultras have lately told Downing Street they might tolerate the UK staying in a shared customs space with the EU until 2022, two years beyond the transition period envisaged at present. This has been reported as a formal concession by the Brexiteers, although they have no official role in the process. The position of chair of the European Research Group, occupied by Jacob Rees-Mogg, has no constitutional value. It meant nothing two years ago. Somehow it has become the pulpit from which permissible boundaries of thought and deed are dictated to the prime minister.

This, for me, sums up much of the problem with the Brexit process so far. The extreme wing of the Conservative party managed to frighten David Cameron into holding an ill-judged referendum on an issue that most people didn’t care about. Then Theresa May allowed herself to be panicked into taking a series of incoherent and inconsistent positions until we reach the current state in which the country looks into the abyss and starts arguing about whether to jump now or take a run-up first.

And the people pushing hardest for Brexit have no idea what it is they are trying to achieve, which would explain why none of them wants to get anywhere near having to take a decision.

The ERG are a minority that will never be satisfied and May’s fear of her far right is ill-founded. Regardless of what she does or says, they will always push for her to go further and take a yet more extreme position and the only threat they have is to trigger a no confidence vote. They might be able to find enough MPs to trigger such a vote, but I don’t believe that a majority — or even a significant minority — of Tories would be willing to support this bonkers faction. So May would remain in power and the ERG would be left with nothing.

Now would be a good time for the Government to acknowledge that Brexit is nothing more than a very expensive way of increasing hardship for all, and to call a halt to the whole charade.

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