I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m not just a Remainer but a Europhile. I like the EU. I admire the work of the European Parliament. I would cheerfully sign up to a single European country.
Nonetheless, it’s always important to see politics from different viewpoints. Suppose you are a keen Brexiteer Tory MP. You’re delighted that we voted Leave. However, it appears that the Government is inching towards a very soft Brexit. Lots of money will be paid with no guarantee of a trade deal. Transitional arrangements will reach far into the future. The power to control European immigration may be only lightly exercised. Something objectively resembling a customs union will probably be agreed. Trade deals with the US and other countries may be elusive.
What do you do next? It is possible that these things will not come to pass, and we will head into a hard Brexit or indeed a no deal outcome. But if they do?
You could join UKIP. However, UKIP is at present a near-bankrupt joke. Rivals have stopped bothering to attack it – they just smile tolerantly. It’s a waste of your time and career suicide.
You could support the deal, for want of better. But on the above scenario they have undermined almost everything you wanted from Leave. Do you want to show that you are blindly loyal and all future threats to defect can be ignored?
You could join Labour. But Labour opinion about Leave ranges from unenthusiastic acceptance to fanatical opposition. Not very promising for you, and you don’t like Corbyn.
You could join the LibDems. This is fanatical opposition HQ. Are you a masochist?
You could help set up a new UKIP. New parties in Britain are almost always doomed.
Or you could stay in the Tories but vote down the EU deal, allying with Labour who will no doubt be saying that they accept Leave but this particular deal is rubbish. You could bring down Mrs May while you’re at it, or not, but that’s actually a separate issue: it might be wise to proclaim loyalty to May, while disagreeing with this particular deal.
We then get No Deal. What happens then? Possibly a new leader. Possibly a new election. Or, quite possibly on her record, May grimly soldiers on, and makes the best of the situation. Whatever – elections come and go, some good, some bad. But Britain is decisively free from entanglements, and out there is the world on its own, for better or worse.
I wouldn’t like that. You might not be keen. But is there really a better alternative that doesn’t make Leave almost completely pointless?
I’ve always thought that May and the EU will reach a deal. I still think so. But, given this analysis, I really wonder if the Parliamentary arithmetic will work.