I am in Dublin today with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung hosted by the European Movement for a conference on our future relations with the EU which could not be better timed. Suddenly, everything is back on the table.
Even a Conservative-DUP coalition would hold a majority in the Commons of just 12 (after the Speaker and SF). It takes just six rebels for it to fail, and by-elections will surely reduce that number even if Parliament survives in current form.
Theresa May went into the election seeking an increased mandate for a line which was essentially “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The people spoke, and said “Actually, no Brexit is better than a bad Brexit“.
Political parties are all about holding on to power. With a recession coming, Conservatives have already begun muttering that they never really intended to leave the Single Market. Interestingly, they don’t need the DUP for that – the similarly electorally chastened SNP would give them the numbers to deliver that and get off the hook of requiring an independence referendum it would surely lose.
Then the question arises about the Customs Union. The reason for leaving it is to do “our own trade deals”, but that is nonsense. The UK would not get better trade deals on its own that it would as part of the world’s largest trading bloc. The people aren’t as stupid as Brexit Secretary David Davis seems to think, so he must know that they know this.
Putting maintenance of the Single Market and the Customs Union back on the table then raises the obvious further question – why leave at all? I suggested immediately after the referendum that what the UK should in fact negotiate is an emergency brake on immigration while remaining in the EU as an “associate”. Suddenly, that looks like not only the most sensible option, but probably also the most popular one…