The official Government position on Brexit is one that the Foreign Secretary will unambiguously approve of – that’s to say, having one’s cake and eating it. The cake is reducing immigration from the EU. The eating it is remaining a member of the Single Market. (Theresa May seems to have no enthusiasm for an option which could deliver this – a deal similar to Norway’s, without Schengen membership but with an emergency brake.)
David Davis just about held that line in the Commons on Monday when he said, after being urged unambiguously to commit the Government to keeping single market membership: “the simple truth is that if a requirement of membership is giving up control of our borders, then I think that makes that very improbable”. Since the Government’s position is that it will not be required to give up such control, the question of losing single market membership in consequence does not arise. Reports of a split between Davis and Theresa May on the issue, on the basis of what he said on Monday, are therefore over-hyped.
However, the Brexit Secretary has a history of thinking aloud about the shape of Leave, as illustrated in his article published on this site two days before he gained the post. “The ideal outcome, (and in my view the most likely, after a lot of wrangling) is continued tariff-free access,” he wrote. “In this process, we should work out what we do in the improbable event of the EU taking a dog in the manger attitude to Single Market tariff free access, and insist on WTO rules and levies, including 10 per cent levies on car exports.” As Daniel Hannan wrote on this site last week, access to the Single Market (with possible tariffs) and membership of it (with none) are not at all the same thing.
Davis can legitimately now claim to have donned the mantle of collective responsibility but, for better or worse, the bulk of our readers clearly share the view that he set out shortly before assuming office.
- 18 per cent back “a Norway-type “softer” form [of Brexit], in which the UK remains a single market member, and immigration is subject to a time-limited emergency brake.
- 78 per cent want a “harder” form, in which the UK does not remain a single market member, and immigration is subject to full control rather than a time-limited emergency break.
Last month, those figures were 26 per cent and 69 per cent. The more Party member readers think about, the more they seem to want a Hard Brexit rather than a Soft One, at least on the evidence we have so far.