Unlike phrases such as "this means war" or "beanz meanz heinz" nobody knew what "Brexit means Brexit" meant before the referendum and the principle players who caused the mess, namely David Cameron, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, have all been conspicuous through absence having to clean it up. Say what you like about Teresa May but the truth is that through sheer dumb luck, Britain ended up with an incredibly competent head of government; with the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and the longsuffering of Paul, being imprisoned in a state of cruel and unusual punishment behind the black door of Number Ten.
The draft agreement between the UK and EU has been finally published and at 585 pages¹ I decided not to print it because it would use more than an entire ream of paper. The short answer to what this monster document contains are as follows.
It decouples the Pound Sterling from the Euro; which is an easier task than had the UK entered the common currency. It undoes a lot of uniform taxation policy and payments towards the maintenance of the common market and it also removes the payments which might have flowed in the other direction. It creates a so-called "hard border" and basically pulls the UK out of both the free movement zone but doesn't have to address the issue of the Schengen Area because both the UK and Ireland always maintained an opt-out. It looks as though there's a single customs territory; which in practical terms means that customs checks are not needed on goods coming from within the EU but given that there are already security checks at both Calais and Folkestone, not much changes.
From what I can gather, the deal looks to be what would have been expected when untangling the mess and I don't really see what else could have been done differently. Nevertheless, there appears to something of a revolt brewing with at least nine cabinet minister, being Liam Fox, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, The Baroness Evans, Chris Grayling and Gavin Williamson the Chief Government Whip, in addition to David Davis, Boris Johnson and Minister from the 1920's Jacob Rees-Mogg², all expressing their displeasure.
As it stands, under the rules of the Conservative party, a leadership spill can be triggered if 15% of all sitting MPs send a letter of no confidence to the chairperson. From what I can gather, there have been 44 letters which have already been sent; there are 316 Tory MPs in the commons, so that leaves just 4 for Britain to hold its own Festival Of The Thirsty Knife.
This is further complicated by the fact that the Tory party is only help in government because of the support in condfidence and supply by the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland; who might just pull their own levers top bring down the government if they don't like the Brexit deal.
Just to throw another spanner in the works of a machine which at this stage is primarily made entirely from spanners, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had this to say:
Not long off call with PM. She tried to tell me Scotland’s ‘distinctive’ interests had been protected. I pointed out that there isn’t a single mention of Scotland in the agreement, that it disregards our interests, and puts Scotland at a serious competitive disadvantage.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 14, 2018
From here, the plan goes to the even bigger sausage machine that is the EU and then back to the House of Commons where there will be a vote. I wouldn't even like to predict how that's going to go because this whole thing has been flying around Whitehall like a hand grenade with the pin taken out that nobody wants to hold for too long.
If the Commons does actually pass this thing, which might not happen because of a Tory revolt or because the DUP decide to switch side, then it goes to the EU who then presumably have their own vote on the floor of the EU parliament. If it falls over either in the House of Commons or the EU parliament then who knows what happens?
Is there a General Election? Is there another redo referendum where Britain can say "Sorry guys, we've got no idea what we're doing"? Does Britain redo the terms of the deal? Or do they just leave with no deal and no idea of what that looks like? I have no idea. I can't find anyone whose written a decent piece on this who has an idea. Dare I say it, the 650 MPs in the House Of Commons also have no idea.
Ms May has at least tried to present an idea; despite not wanting Brexit before the referendum and being left with a problem that she didn't create. I think that it's the best that can be expected in all honesty. Brexit means Brexit, whatever that means; nobody has an idea.