I confess I’ve not waded through the 585 pages of legalese that makes up the draft agreement of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU (thanks PCar for the link), but the reaction on Twitter tells me:
1. Free movement of people is ended.
2. The UK remains in the customs union indefinitely.
What’s interesting is Leavers are irate beyond measure which suggests, contrary to their portrayal in the media, they weren’t driven by immigration. If that were the case, they’d not be too disappointed with an agreement which halted free movement. That they are more upset about continued membership of the customs union suggests sovereignty and independence were equally as important as ending free movement. None of this should come as a surprise to those who know any Leave voters.
However, Remainers are equally unhappy, presumably because free movement will end along with a whole load of taxpayer funded schemes which prop up swathes of the middle class left. They’ll be joining Leavers in writing to their MPs urging them to vote against the bill when it’s put before parliament. Jeremy Corbyn, who must be relishing this, has already said he’ll vote against it so May is relying on Labour rebels to offset those in her own party. I think this vote will be the most heavily scrutinised in recent memory, with every MP’s reputation for the next few years depending on which way they cast their ballot. I imagine many of them didn’t get much sleep last night. This is how it should be, and for once it’s nice to see the public – both Leavers and Remainers – holding their representatives’ feet to the fire.
Here’s what I reckon will happen. The agreement will be voted down and May will leave; either she’ll resign or will be shoved out by her own party, along with anyone in the cabinet who assented to it. A general election will be called leaving the Tories with two options:
1. Pick a Remain leader and cabinet and we all start preparing for Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn.
2. Pick a Leave leader and cabinet, win the election, chuck the draft in the bin, and start negotiations again.
Much as though I’d prefer to see No. 2 happen, if the Tories had that sort of gumption they’d have done it already. Unless some have been working tirelessly behind the scenes preparing a realistic plan which can immediately be placed in front of Barnier, it’s just going to be more hot air before we crash out with no deal. I’d not be too disappointed if the Tories’ stated intention is to crash out with no deal, but if that’s what happens by default because they’re too hapless to get a plan together, it’s hardly a demonstration of the sort of leadership Britain will need in the near future.
So I suspect they’ll pick a total wet as leader who nobody will vote for and Corbyn will get in. From what I’m reading on Twitter, which to be fair is probably not a great representation, people are prepared to suffer a Corbyn government rather than continue to support the Conservatives, such are their feelings of betrayal. Oddly, I’m half minded to think Corbyn and Co. could negotiate a better deal than May’s managed. He’d certainly not turn up looking to please everyone, and idiotic his beliefs might be he might inadvertently get Britain out of the EU in a way which leaves Brexiteers satisfied.
What I’d really like to see, though, is the Metropolitan New Labour/Cameron remnants who think the EU is wonderful and the referendum an abomination forced to start their own party, in the same way UKIP was founded to represent those who wanted to leave. Thus far, they’ve assumed they can wrestle back control of the existing levers of power against the wishes of the people. Two anti-EU parties contesting a General Election would be the slap in the face they need to show them they’re no longer representative of the wider UK. There’s little that would make me happier than a bunch of whining London-based media types launching a party and seeing their ideas roundly ignored by all but themselves. They could even make Blair their leader.