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Let's get on with leaving

It’s time to be blunt about the government’s approach to leaving the European Union. It set out its policy in July after the infamous Chequers cabinet meeting, publishing what it called a White Paper. But it’s more like a white flag.

It talks about “no direct” jurisdiction of the European Court, but it means almost total indirect jurisdiction (and, it turns out, probably some direct, too). It talks about ending free movement of labour, but introduces the weasel wording of a “mobility framework”. 

It talks about a “common rulebook” for trade, but it turns out that there’s nothing common about it at all: it’s the EU’s rulebook, and the government is seeking to tie Britain to it, permanently.

It talks about leaving the EU but it means staying under the EU’s thumb. Call that Brexit? It’s not.

As if the EU needed any encouragement to play tough! Now they think they can get Britain to abandon the idea of Brexit altogether.

But Brussels cannot be appeased. Its short-lived empire is crumbling, with open enmity between its members and its weapon of the free movement of labour under attack even in its heartland of Germany. 

The EU’s desire to punish Britain is born out of weakness, not strength. It dare not make concessions to Britain, for fear it will have to do the same for border nations like Switzerland and even for its own members. It dare not make it easy for other members to leave.

‘It’s starting to look as though this government’s entire approach to Brexit has been a deception.’

It’s starting to look as though this government’s entire approach to Brexit has been a deception – from Theresa May’s declaration during her campaign for the Conservative leadership that “Brexit means Brexit”, through the “red lines” of  Lancaster House speech in January 2017 and on to the Chequers statement. 

It looked so promising. She even set up a Department for Exiting the European Union, with David Davis, a Brexiteer, in charge. But then she neutered Davis and his department by handing negotiations over to a pet Civil Service mandarin – _ a Remainer – even allowing Davis to prepare a White Paper while all along developing her own in secret. 

One thing is clear: a whole summer – actually a whole year at least – has been wasted. There have been no real negotiations, just manoeuvring inside the Conservative Party to seize the initiative back from those seeking to implement the referendum vote.

If they think the people of Britain will quail at the prospect of “no deal” – when actually the country voted to leave as soon as possible – they have another think coming. But now is the time for the people to make that clear, to show their anger. It’s time to force the government to do what it said it would do, in the teeth of the Remain majority in parliament and indeed the cabinet.

The Brexit process can no longer be a spectator sport. All must be involved if we are to put Brexit back on track.