The leaked plan of how the Government might try to sell the Brexit deal contains a telling passage. The memo instructs the Cabinet Office to talk up the agreement by ‘comparing it to no deal but not to our current deal’. For all the claims by a government spokesman that the ‘misspelling and childish language in this document should be enough to make clear it doesn’t represent the government’s thinking’, this key phrase is the closest we have come to a disturbing admission: that Theresa May’s deal could leave us worse off than remaining in the EU.
The suggestion that this might be the case – coupled with the speed with which it seems Downing Street wants to market the deal to MPs and business leaders once an agreement is struck – appears to show just how desperate May is to have a Brexit deal in place by Christmas. And she will do it regardless of the cost. The Prime Minister’s famous pledge that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ now seems like a distant memory.
May knows she is woefully unprepared for an acrimonious exit from the EU and believes that no deal would plunge the country into chaos. But in making that so obvious, and by failing to have a contingency plan, she has left herself exposed.
The genius of the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has been to trick the UK into thinking there is only one plan it can follow: it must accept indefinite membership of the customs union unless it is prepared to trigger a hard border with Northern Ireland. May has fallen straight into his trap.