There is only one thing more clueless than the UK Government on Brexit, and that is the UK Opposition.
The Conservative stance is ludicrous but not quite unbelievable. On 23 June, 17 million people voted for a fantasy. Now the Conservatives have been caught with no plan to deliver on that fantasy – because, of course, it cannot be delivered upon. A competent Government would admit that, and move on to Plan B. Sadly, a competent government is not remotely what we have.
The Labour stance is ludicrous and unbelievable. Most Labour voters voted Remain; those who did not are the ones being disproportionately affected by the consequent mess – as Sterling declines and the cost of living rises, it is those on low and fixed incomes in Sheffield and Sunderland who are suffering the most. Yet even this most left-wing of Labour parties is unwilling to help. Instead of saying it will back Article 50 only once there is a coherent plan to protect those people who are genuinely “vulnerable” from such currency and cost-of-living shocks, the Labour leadership has rolled over. It too should adopt Plan B as its counter-strategy. Sadly, a competent opposition is not what we have either.
(This lack of competence was, for the record, horribly demonstrated in the aftermath of the Autumn Statement where one Labour front bencher was clearly unaware of the difference between the Single Market and the Customs Union, ending up arguing that the UK could do its own Trade Deals from within the Customs Union – never mind pausing to wonder why the UK would want to do its own Trade Deals anyway in the current global climate. This is basic stuff, but such incompetence now seems to be electorally beneficial.)
Most people want controls on immigration; most people want free trade with Continental Europe. But most people want lower taxes and higher public spending too. The UK can only deliver what is negotiable – and “immigration controls with free trade” are no more available as a negotiation outcome than “low taxes with high public spending”. But, of course, it may get close with Plan B… not least since “Plan A” seems to consist of holding fingers in ears and hoping it all just goes away £58.7b at a time.