Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. May. 24, 2019 5 min read

Right. Congrats to all those that knifed @theresa_may - she was pretty useless, and the author of her own failure to deliver #Brexit

But the reality is that it wasn't 'her' was a deal created by gravity, not strategy.

So can the next man/woman defy gravity? 1/thread

Because, to re-cap, @theresa_may began in her first conference speech in Octber 2016 by shooting for the #Brexit stars.

She was going to have Britain float free - of the ECJ, of the Customs Union, of the Single Market - and yet by some miracle.... /2

....retain 'frictionless' trade with Europe. Like @BorisJohnson she was 'pro having cake, and pro eatiing it'....

But then step by step gravity took over as she tried to square circles and resolve the dreaded Irish trilemma/3

I don't want to rehearse the entire, miserable drama, but in the end her deal was the inexorable consequence of a committment to Unionism and a need to deliver on curbs to Free Movement of People, and so leave the single market. Her deal is simply what you get left with. /4

So enough of Theresa. She failed. And she failed because she never felt politically strong enough to confront her party with the reality of the choices that are posed by #Brexit - something which, I happen to agree with her, needs to be delivered. There was a vote. /5

Which brings us on to the new leader, and their chances of getting a different/better result.

There is a good argument that a Brexiteer would have been better (at the start) than a compromise candidate like May. A hawk to sell the peace, so to speak. But now? /6

Now? Now the middle road has been forsaken - the 48-52 marginal Brexit that Mrs May confected has been rejected by all sides, for different reasons. It was too hard, too soft...too #Brexit at all. /7

No so long ago, people like Bill Cash dreamed of a Norway type arrangement. Now leaving the customs union is the new Brexit baseline...the bare minimum, when @Nigel_Farage is out selling joys of a WTO-only #Brexit. /8

So as one official said to me this week, with the middle ground despised and spat upon, we are now heading to a 'death-match' between 'no deal' and 'revoke'.

How do we get there? /9

Well, the new PM will have to be elected on a 'renegotiate or reject' ticket - 'renegotiate' the Withdrawal Agreement (specifically the Irish backstop), and if that fails, 'reject' it and go for a 'no deal'. /10

There are bits of the EU that now regret the 'Irish backstop' as too much, too soon, but in reality, can the EU27 leaders give Boris what they wouldn't give May? As one senior EU diplomat says to me "if we do, we immediately make him a great political figure". /11

And recall, the Backstop is a *UK-designed* insurance policy to maintain clear invisible Irish border and preserves as best as possible the UK internal market (even if DUP disagree).

It was born of the UK failure to answer that Irish trilemma in a non-cakeist way. /12

Recall also, that @DominicRaab @DavidDavisMP @BorisJohnson were all party to that failure - how to have independent trade policy (tariffs and regs) and perpetuate an invisble border made possible by the Single European Act of 1992, ie the EU single market. /13

They talk 'alternative arrangements' but despite all the civil servants, the commissions and enquiries they still cannot say what they are. I've done so many threads on why - recap here. /14

They are still trying - @GregHands @NickyMorgan01 and co were in NI y'day being baffled the backstop and VAT and how this stuff *actually works*. Which is the problem. /15

#Brexit cannot be delivered via soundbites; or by huffing and puffing or by TALKING LOUDLY AT THE EUROPEANS until they understand.

It can only be delivered by choices, and understanding that the other side has interests, and the will/ability to protect them. /16

It is not in the EU interests to force a hard UK exit (I still don't think they will) but equally the EU has to defend the integrity of the project and its single market, with its single rulebook, single referee.

What's amazing is that after 3 years this penny hasn't dropped/17

But there we are. The new PM will have to make good on all those promises and predictions that the EU will crumble if confronted...and if that fails, that a 'no deal' will be fine and dandy. /18

I know I'm sad #brexit wonk, but it staggers me that people cannot see that a 'no deal' is not an end-state.

What do people honestly think will happen? That the UK will be as sovereign as North Korea. Brilliant. Then what? "We'll get an FTA?" /19

And how do we get an FTA? What will be the sequencing terms for *that* negotiation before *sufficient progress* is achieved to begin substantive talks...the same frustrations await. The same questions about the Irish border and customs. Really, nothing will have changed./20

But there have always been two #Brexit worlds.

A political one and a technical one, and they circle each other in separate orbits, partly thanks to May's political cowardice and shortcomings.

Between October-March 2020, they look set to collide, after several near misses. /21

The consequences of that collision are very hard to predict.

It could be a near extinction moment for both political parties, or maybe the birth of a new, truly populist Britain.

Jezza V Bozza: that's the fight the punters want. That's what will put bums on seats. /22

It may shatter this (Dis)United Kingdom once and for all, or the impending collision may see everyone take a step back and hold a 'no deal' v 'revoke' referendum.

There is even talk that a PM Boris, backed into a corner as described above, might propose such a thing /23

Propose it with a heavy heart etc - and with a promise to campaign with all that heart for a 'no deal' - perhaps that is a way out.

But would the people really understand? After so long being told that 'no deal' was nothing to fear? That 2nd ref was a betrayal? /24

I honestly don't know, but after two years of dithering and dissembling the next phase of #Brexit approaches.

As one senior but sensible cabinet minister said to me this week. "Time to fasten those seatbelts". 25/ENDS

You can follow @pmdfoster.


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