Hard, soft, slow, fast, WTO, red white and blue, grey, EEA, transition, cliff-edge: so many different ways of leaving the EU are mooted that it is hard to keep up. But while the form of Brexit is arguable, the fact of it is not. We leave on March 31 2019. This is so because of the way the Article 50 process works. There is no known means of stopping it once it has been started. If you don’t like this, don’t blame the Brexiteers: rather, blame Tony Blair, who negotiated the Lisbon Treaty of which Article 50 is a part.
Discussion about leaving the EU will continue. That is right – and inevitable. But Westminster and Whitehall need to spend less time talking about Brexit and more time preparing for it. To the claim that one can’t get ready for the unknown – that’s to say, the type of deal with the EU we will get – comes the answer that government must prepare for all eventualities, including the possibility of no deal being reached at all. This would also have the benefit of persuading our interlocutors that the Government means what it says.
This is why ConservativeHome will this week host five articles by Charlie Elphicke under the heading of Ready On Day One. It will cover borders, customs, infrastructure, migration, Northern Ireland, trade, tax, and much else. Elphicke has already written a report covering some of these matters that is well worth reading. His first piece today looks at borders, roads and customs. It is more to the point than summer season speculation over a final settlement, whipped up while nearly all the major players are on holiday.