So, on Monday, the wheels finally came off the Brexit bus with the DUP instructing Theresa May to take her carefully negotiated compromise off the table.
The biggest surprise to me was the number of politicians and commenters expressing surprise. The UK’s Brexit strategy — if you can call it a strategy — is a mess of contradictions wrapped up with wishful thinking. It was only a matter of time before their bluff was called and the emptiness of their proposals was exposed. And now that’s happened and the only reaction from the Tories is to engage in yet another round of bluster and blame-dodging.
Not surprisingly, there have been calls for May to go, with prominent Conservative party donor, Charlie Mullins pointing out that:
Theresa May has neither the power to do a good Brexit deal for the UK nor the authority to call off the madness.
I certainly agree that Britain needs a PM that is both competent and credible. But I can’t think of anyone in the Tory party who both fits the bill and would be willing to take over this ongoing disaster. Which, of course, is why May will remain in office (if not in power) for the foreseeable future.
And it’s not just in Britain that this Government’s incompetence is so painfully obvious:
While the next “final” deadline for stage one has not been defined publicly, several EU sources said the deal would have to be struck by the end of the week, with either Friday or Sunday as the last resort.
One EU ambassador told the Guardian the failure to reach a deal on Northern Ireland was a microcosm of a wider problem. “At root the problem is that [May] seems incapable of making a decision and is afraid of her own shadow,” the source said.
“We cannot go on like this, with no idea what the UK wants. She just has to have the conversation with her own cabinet, and if that upsets someone, or someone resigns, so be it. She has to say what kind of trading relationship she is seeking. We cannot do it for her, and she cannot defer forever.”
For weeks, European officials have walked a tightrope between sticking to the EU’s tough negotiating stance and seeking to avoid action or words that could destabilise the fragile May government.
“We have to treat the UK political system like a rotten egg,” said one EU source in the run-up to Monday’s talks, suggesting that if “the realities of the world” dawned too soon, the British government could become more fragile.
If reality did dawn, and if Britain had a Prime Minister with enough courage to be honest with both her party and her country, many people would be recognising by now that the time has come to stop pretending and call a halt to Brexit. It is not in Britain’s interest and the longer that May lets the bonkers wing of her party corral her into ever more unrealistic positions, the more harm it will do.
Of course, no-one is going to try to make the Brexiters face reality any time soon.