Since Friday’s Chequers meeting which was intended to distil a unified cabinet position on Brexit and re-impose ministerial “collective responsibility”, the government has been reeling after a series of resignations. First, the person responsible for the Brexit negotiations on the British side, David Davis, went, swiftly followed by his deputy, By the end of the day, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, had also resigned – for many, Johnson was the familiar face behind the official “Leave” campaign and was regarded by many as the charismatic figure that swayed the vote. Since then, two vice chairmen of the party have also resigned (Ben Bradwell and Maria Caulfield) have also resigned stating that they cannot support the current government position and fear that their constituents would vote them out of parliament should the nation be faced with a general election on the back of the current Brexit position.
It goes without saying that the “European Research Group”, an association of about 60 Eurosceptic Tory MPs, is totally unhappy with the current government position and has more or less threatened to vote down any deal that the government get on current proposals – they suggest that the eventual deal would involve even more concessions from the government to secure EU blessing and they think the current position is already unacceptable.
This would mean that May’s Brexit deal (if she gets one) would need substantial backing from the Labour Party to stand any chance of getting through parliament. The current Labour position is that any deal must pass their six tests (which it won’t). One of these tests was that the deal would provide the same benefits as the current EU membership which is as impossible as eating your cake and having it and could never have been delivered from the outset.
There has been no official reaction from the EU on the Chequers proposals, but it is unlikely that they will allow the UK de facto membership of the single market and customs union for goods only when the UK is adamant that it will no longer allow one of the four freedoms: the free movement of EU citizens. However, they do want to see an agreement which would avoid the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal in March 2019. The EU is waiting for the release of a governmental white paper setting out its Brexit position before commenting.
Naturally, there is considerable speculation over a leadership challenge to Mrs May with some suggesting that Johnson’s resignation was designed to put him into such a leadership contest. The last thing that the UK needs now is either a general election or a leadership contest. Brexit means Brexit, of course.