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Now it’s a fight to the finish between a no-deal Brexit and remain

6 16 0
24.05.2019

It’s now all or nothing. Theresa May has gone, most likely taking with her the possibility of a negotiated exit from the European Union. It means that the choice that will soon face the country is starker than before: a no-deal Brexit – or no Brexit at all.

In her parting address outside Downing Street, May made a better case for compromise between those two positions than she ever had before. “Life depends on compromise,” she said, quoting the Kindertransport rescuer and hero, Nicholas Winton. It sounded hollow coming from her, given that her brittle personal style, incapable of emollience, and her inept grasp of political tactics had together made her a byword for inflexibility (right until the moment, which came often, when she would cave entirely). Her epitaph will be the inadvertent slogan of her calamitous 2017 election campaign: “Nothing has changed.”

And yet all that concealed the fact that May’s eventual Brexit strategy – arrived at only after she had legitimised, with fateful consequences, the notion that “no deal was better than a bad deal” – was the pursuit of a compromise between no deal and no Brexit, in the form of a withdrawal agreement.

The result is that those who fear the chaos that would be unleashed by a no-deal crash out of the EU might come to feel an unexpected nostalgia for May and her hapless but dogged efforts. Given what, and who, are likely to follow, we might look back wistfully at a prime minister who at least sought to smooth our departure from the bloc of our closest trading partners and neighbours. To picture Boris Johnson in No 10 is to realise: we may miss her when she’s gone.

For the prospect now is that May’s abject failure to pass her withdrawal deal has discredited the very idea of such an agreement. That effect is due to be cemented when the results of the European elections are tallied this weekend. Even if Nigel Farage’s Brexit party doesn’t match its sky-high expectations – and turnout figures do look healthier in remain areas – Farage’s expected trouncing of the Tories among leave voters has already persuaded, or panicked, plenty of Conservative MPs towards the view that the only Brexit that will fly electorally is one of........

© The Guardian