James Kirkup James Kirkup

Both sides are to blame for killing soft Brexit

Peter Mandelson pictured in Westminster the day after the EU referendum (Getty images)

Peter Mandelson’s remainer credentials are impeccable. He is a former European Commissioner who helped run Britain Stronger In and then the People’s Vote (PV) campaign. He is as committed and eloquent a champion of EU membership as you’ll find. Which makes his Brexit intervention in the Guardian so important:

All the new benefits from every global trade deal we could ever aspire to will not begin to equal the size of our present European trade. This is the price we will pay for the triumph of hardline Tory Brexiters over those with a stronger sense of national interest in their party. It is also the price the rest of us in the pro-EU camp will pay for trying, in the years following 2016, to reverse the referendum decision rather than achieve the least damaging form of Brexit.

In Mandelson’s view, the Remain ultras’ campaign to stop Brexit gave Britain a worse and harder Brexit that it could have had. I agree, and have been saying so here for several years. And just for the record, I voted Remain.

At several points in recent British political history, different choices could have delivered a form of Brexit that allowed Britain to trade much more freely with the EU that it will under whatever deal is – or is not – agreed in the coming week.

Listing and explaining all those turning points would take a short book rather than a column, but briefly the list starts with the Conservative party in 2016: if Tories had made Boris Johnson PM immediately after the referendum, he’d have steered the UK towards a much softer Brexit, and been able to take his party with him. (This, incidentally, is why Michael Gove did what he did that mad summer long ago.

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