The government’s major battles have all been delayed for the second phase: negotiations over what a final Brexit deal really looks like haven’t even begun
Eighteen months of bluster, of “Brexit means Brexit”, of “red, white and blue Brexit”, of “no deal is better than a bad deal”. And for what? Brexit, it turns out, means whatever the EU27 want it to mean. The EU has conceded nothing meaningful; Theresa May’s stringent red lines turned out to be easily wiped away. “So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task,” as the EU’s Donald Tusk puts it: now a year remains for the hard part.
Let’s just consider what has happened after the Tories’ pointless theatrics. The Irish border question has been neatly folded and placed into the “hopefully this will sort itself out somehow at some point” box. The DUP is sceptically frowning at the box and has publicly reserved its right to kick off again as soon as another attempt to resolve the impossible is made. Britain has agreed to pay the EU vast amounts of money, probably between £35bn and £39bn: note that David Davis previously tried to calm Tory backbench anger over a reported £40bn bill on the basis it was “made up”. The European court of justice will continue to play a key role for many years: Brexiteer journalist Isabel Oakeshott publicly worries that “Many Brexiteers will be dead before the ECJ releases its chilling grip on this country,” adding the hashtag “sellout” for good measure.