Friday, 18 May 2018

The Style To Which They Are Accustomed

And so the Government simply gives up on trying to stay out of the Customs Union, at least in fact rather than merely in name. Its own party's right wing, perhaps 20 mostly rather eccentric MPs but certainly not 30, will um and ah. But they cannot do any more than that, and of course they can be asked whether they wanted to add the dissolution of the Union with Northern Ireland to their already stated aim of the abolition of the House of Lords. Not that that question is now rhetorical. How very, very far Brexit has moved them.

The idea that the United Kingdom has a land border at all, never mind one that is more than 300 miles long and which has more than 200 crossing points, has shaken the Right's own sense of national identity to its core. But there are more crossing points on the Irish Border than there are on the entire eastern border of the EU. Some of them are streams so small that they have no names, and so shallow that they have no bridges; you just have to wade. Yet such is the land frontier of the United Kingdom, a frontier the very existence of which entirely blows the minds of the Our Island Story brigade.

Nor does the Right really have any argument against the Customs Union, as such. For that, you need the Left, which has been working on this for 60 years and which could do so for 60 more if it had to. Although key points of the last Labour manifesto were dependent on leaving both the Customs Union and the Single Market, as key points of the next Labour manifesto will be. By contrast, Brexit itself was the only point in the last Conservative manifesto to have been in any way dependent on Brexit.

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