James Kirkup James Kirkup

Why Brexit will never end

I hate to take issue with a fellow Spectator writer, but Robert Peston’s revelation that a “no deal” Brexit is now off the table strikes me as a prime example of Westminster’s ability to ignore the bleeding obvious for months on end then talk cobblers in an authoritative voice when finally forced to confront reality.

Robert is far from alone in his conclusion about last night’s Commons vote. To be honest, I’m just taking issue with his post because the spectacle of Spectator writers disagreeing seems to interest some people, probably because they struggle with the idea of one publication publishing multiple and contradictory viewpoints. I’m happy to oblige that taste, on condition that it’s noted that I think Robert is ten times the journalist I’ll ever be and a very nice man too.

The point I’m getting to is that “no deal” Brexit has been dead for a long time — just over a year, in fact. It died on election night last year. You remember the election? The one Theresa May called because she said she needed a clear mandate for her chosen approach to Brexit. The one where the electorate denied her that mandate. That election.

I mention it because a lot of people seem to have forgotten it, or chosen to ignore it. To her credit, Mrs May has not. Within a few hours of the result last year, she had accepted that Brexit must take a course different to the one she had set before the election. She even told us so, not least in her Florence speech and then very clearly in her December deal.

As for “no deal is better than a bad deal”, ask yourself when you last heard Mrs May say the words. I repeat: no-deal Brexit died not last night but on election night in June 2017.

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