By the skin of her teeth, Mrs May has reached some sort of accord with the EU. The details emerging are still very general in detail and we may doubt that we’ll ever learn quite what went on in that last minute discussion on Friday.
As usual, there are two sides to every circumstance. It is good that we can now move on to talking about a trade arrangement with the EU and we should be encouraged by the fact that we can now start negotiating. This has cost us a lot of money to get to this position - perhaps a little less than we first horrifically imagined - but we still need to agree a deal. And the outcome of this deal is the real crunch bit of the process. The peripheral issues around all the recent disputes, to me, fall secondary to the trade arrangement and perhaps jointly along with concerns about the length and terms of the transition phase which is surely to follow our exit. We are by no means yet in the right place. The tough bit still lies ahead.
So do we imagine our government has survived sufficiently well to continue ? Mrs May has certainly bought herself a breathing space but the internecine nature of politics does not guarantee her future. Her cabinet is still very much divided about the whole nature of Brexit and despite praise and platitudes from her rivals it looks very clear that they will continue to content themselves with circling like expectant vultures for the meal ahead that they are salivating over. Mr Gove tells us this morning that the electorate can still disagree with the outcome of Brexit at the next election and force a change - but I find that something of a hollow prospect for it is feasible that the next election won’t be until 2021 by which time the potential to change that which has been agreed will be long passed. The only virtue in that remark is dependent upon a sooner election being forced - and that would suggest those circling vultures still have an intent on playing their hand. We’ll have to see.
Whilst my faith in our government is very qualified it is probably right that we allow that breathing space Mrs May has engineered to develop a little and see how the trade talks proceed. These are important and we need the right deal. But we must be wary of those trade talks becoming irrevocably linked to any suggestion of partial EU membership, of ECJ supremacy over British law and of a customs union arrangement that will allow our borders to remain open and free not just for goods but people as well. If those were conditions then we would end up with a bad deal and the government needs to be strong and committed to getting the Brexit deal they were mandated to get from the outcome of the referendum. But we need to give the government that immediate opportunity to get these talks set on the right track. The £64,000 question is, of course, whether the government can politically survive to achieve anything before the vultures get too hungry. Half of me is with the notion of giving the government space, the other half is flying with the vultures if the trade talk signs fail to show the right indicators quickly.