“The only thing the government will find between Norway and Canada is the wreck of the Titanic.” As the UK hunkers down for what could be its penultimate Christmas in the EU, the real price of Brexit begins to emerge, and it’s uncannily close to that infamous figure of £350m a week—before the UK has left. While preparing to enter the most difficult stage of negotiations, Theresa May has reaffirmed her commitment to prior, fundamentally irreconcilable positions (and sacked a key ally). Despite what was touted by the press as a successful conclusion to Phase One, analysts argue that the UK is about to discover that you can’t always get what you want—unless you want a transition deal not a day longer than two years, in which case, here, have 21 months.
A vote last week to maintain Parliament’s say over the final Brexit deal has led to death threats for Tory Remainer MPs. But ordinary people are also the target of Leaver hostility. The government’s belated guarantees for EU citizens are too little, too late for many: nurses and doctors are leaving, and an exodus of foreign workers is leaving employers in the lurch. Many EU citizens feel stuck in limbo, and applying for British citizenship is no panacea. Spare a thought, too, for the British bureaucrats in Brussels.
The Phase One fudging of the Irish border issue is also set to come undone, as game theory suggests that Brexit will see the re-emergence of a harder border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Another troublesome Rock also looms. Meanwhile, the Tories have helped the DUP avoid scrutiny over a £435,000 donation it received during the referendum campaign, which was partly spent on newspaper advertising not even aimed at Northern Ireland. Other questions about the legitimacy of the referendum process persist: Did Vote Leave commit a crime over its funding? And who are Veterans for Britain?