Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, a commentator with CNN and the author/editor of over 30 books.
Two years on from the EU referendum, the Government seems to be no nearer concluding what it actually wants. It ought to be laid out in detail in the White Paper which will be published next week, but I wonder how much detail we’re actually going to get. If it’s just another set of options, what’s the point of it?
It’s mission impossible for Theresa May at Chequers today. Her task is more difficult than England winning a World Cup penalty shoot out – but, hey, if England can do it then maybe Theresa can. Wouldn’t bet my mortgage on it, though.
The scale of her task? To unite the warring factions in the cabinet, explain in easy-to-understand words to the European Union exactly what Britain wants to achieve in the Brexit talks, and to explain how we’re going to prevent it annexing Northern Ireland. Piece of….cake. Well, it ought to be.
But we have a Prime Minister who after two years seems either reluctant or completely unable provide the leadership her cabinet, her Party and her country expect. Do you know what kind of Brexit she wants to achieve? Does anyone. Does she?
However, it’s not all her fault. Brexit-supporting cabinet ministers are largely absent from the debate. Not a single one of them is explaining the sunny uplands that supposedly await us after we leave. If they won’t make the case, who will? They’re letting down the 17.4 million of us who voted for Brexit. Day after day it’s relentless doom and gloom in news bulletins, The Guardian and The Times.
Who’s countering that and fighting the Brexit cause? No one, that’s who.
The Conservative party can recover from this. It recovered from the split over the Corn laws, but it took years to regain the trust of the electorate. Bugger this up, and they’ll deserve to be out of power for a generation.
Labour is even more split than the Tories over Brexit. But they’re not in power. May is. Today, she needs to show her Cabinet she’s not just in power, but she knows how to wield it. It’s a back me or sack me moment. She’s like Eric Dier stepping up for the fifth penalty. He scored. Will she. Can she? And if she can’t. Well, we will really be in uncharted waters.
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I found it most amusing that Remain-supporting Tory MPs lined up to slag off Jacob Rees-Mogg for his article in the Daily Telegraph on Monday. We should get behind the Prime Minister, they trilled in unison. The very people who have spent much of the last two years undermining her Brexit negotiating position.
It’s also strange that the Remainers have now switched to become her biggest supporters. There’s a reason for that. They think they’re about to get a BRINO – Brexit In Name Only. And I fear they’re right. We are heading not for a hard Brexit, but the softest of soft Brexits.
If we are to be ruletakers, unable to negotiate our own trade deals, there is a school of thought that we’d be better off if we’d remained in the EU. At least we’d have had a say. How this is at all compatible with May’s pledge to come out of the Single Market and Customs Union I just don’t know.
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Tracey Crouch was so excited by England’s victory over Colombia on Tuesday that she broke one of this country’s cardinal rules the next morning. On her way into work on the tube, the Sports Minister actually spoke to a complete stranger. It will never catch on.
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On Wednesday afternoon, I did a phone-in on Universal Credit. Astonishingly, most of the callers were actually in favour of it, and said it was working perfectly OK for them. First time for everything.
However, it was a caller called Rab who stole the show with this pearl:
Rab: “Can I just make one final point, Iain?”
Me: “Of course – what is it?”
Rab: “It’s coming home.”