Article - Brexit

I have almost never used this column to comment on national political issues. But this week the elephant in the room is so elephantine as to make any effort to write about something else seem positively bathetic.

I refer, of course, to the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

I would be willing to wager a considerable sum that there are few, if any, readers of this column who — having either read the text or heard or seen reports of its contents — are ecstatic or euphoric about it, or even 100% satisfied with it.

Having studied this text and having followed closely the discussions that led to it, I too find it hard to describe myself as ecstatic or euphoric about it.

The truth is that this deal is what deals usually are — a compromise.

In this case, it is a compromise not only between the two sides that negotiated it but also between the two aims that the Prime Minister had in negotiating it.

Her first aim was to fulfil the referendum mandate by removing the U.K. from the EU, from the EU rules that allow unlimited migration, from annual contributions to the EU Budget, from the jurisdiction of the European Court, from the Common Fisheries Policy and from the Common Agricultural Policy.

Her second aim was to ensure a smooth, non-disruptive departure and a transition period during which we can negotiate the details of a free trade agreement that provides the frictionless, tariff-free trade in goods between the UK and the EU on which much of our manufacturing industry depends.

From much of the comment, one might not notice that she has, as a matter of fact, pretty much achieved these two aims.

Is this heroic, enthusing, romantic? Most definitely not.

Will it ever fully satisfy those who believe it was a terrible mistake for the electorate to vote in favour of leaving the EU? No.

Will it ever fully satisfy those who are determined to leave behind every last trace of the EU at any short term cost? No.

Will it continue to have many critics and few if any enthusiastic proponents? Undoubtedly.

But that, dear readers, is what happens with sensible compromises.

No one loves them. But they get us through.