‘Brexit means Brexit’ – but what happens next?
Tomorrow, the Cabinet gathers at Chequers. Ministers were given summer homework to come up with how Brexit presents opportunities for their ministries. More than two thirds of the Cabinet supported Remain but after lunch will be required to eat their words and spew out the positives of the Brexit decision.
One prominent pro-Remain Cabinet minister I spoke to seemed at ease with the demands. One pro-Remain former Cabinet minister sacked by Theresa May told me senior civil servants will struggle to implement policies they think are wrong-headed.
There will be a “normal” Cabinet in the morning at which civil servants like the Cabinet Secretary will be present. Brexit, one minister told me, doesn’t appear to be on the agenda for that session. But in the afternoon “political” Cabinet with civil servants banished from the room, Brexit will dominate.
Theresa May wants to preside over a successful government even if its central mission isn’t one she supported. You can see here the sort of “gains” that ministers will be listing in their departments. Higher education, now part of the Education brief, could save money through not funding EU students (but could lose money if EU students start pluming for other countries’ universities). DWP could save money by disqualifying EU citizens from benefits but as with access to the NHS, restricting access for EU citizens is bound to be reciprocated by EU members.
The first promised cross-Channel Brexit skirmish of the post Summer political season proved to be little of the sort. Amber Rudd’s visit to Paris to discuss Calais and other security cooperation with her French counterpart ended with a very consensual joint statement. President Hollande promised his commitment to the Le Touquet agreement of 2003 that allows for juxtaposed border checks when he met Theresa May before the holidays. Today his minister stuck to that line. The problems could come if President Hollande loses the French Presidential election next year.
By the way, the Le Touquet agreement in Article 25 says either the UK or France can rip up the arrangements with a letter of notification but the existing arrangements must continue for 2 years from the date of notification. So even if a presidential hopeful with a commitment to end the agreement was elected, it could be some time before alternative arrangements are put in place.