24 November 2018

Predictably enough, the hard right-wing nationalists in Parliament are pounding their chests and claiming that Theresa May’s government could have got a much better deal on Brexit. Led by the Member for the Eighteenth Century, Jacob-Rees Mogg and the Member for the Second World War, Boris Johnson, in alliance with the Member for the Battle of the Boyne, Arlene Foster, they are demanding either that she go back to Brussels and do better, or leave the field to them. What they either don’t understand (like James Rogers of the Henry Jackson Society) or choose to overlook is that, as I was taught many years ago, ‘power is as power does’; in other words, that power is a relative concept – it is only revealed when its potential is put to the test in particular relationships, in the case of Brexit a negotiation lasting for 17 months between Britain and the EU. And what these have revealed is that a united EU is far more powerful than a divided UK. I conclude, therefore, that in reality it is highly unlikely that the Brextremists could have done any better, and would also be unable to do any better in the future. And let’s not forget that their own men were actually in charge of the specially created Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) through the whole negotiation. I hasten to add that the point I am making here should in no way be interpreted as support for Mrs May’s deal. I find myself thinking along the same lines as Jonathan Freedland.