Waiting for “B + 1” Day
Theresa May accidentally called the trumpeted “implementation period” a “transition” in the Commons today. “That’s a tenner in the swear box,” one adviser said.
Mrs May had spent her late morning at the Brexit Cabinet Committee. It opened with a presentation by the official in charge of negotiations, Oliver Robbins. Mr Robbins outlined an approach that imagines 3 buckets: one for issues or sectors where the UK wants to stay following EU rules, another for areas where we might want to shadow them but with a different approach, a third one is the bucket for areas where we very much want to diverge from the EU.
I asked one who was at the meeting: “Which bucket ended up most full?” I was told we weren’t at that stage of the exercise and this was outlining an approach, ministers weren’t throwing anything in yet.
It doesn’t sound like the Cabinet Committee then descended into a riot. Everyone spoke from the corner of the argument you would expect. The new addition to the committee, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, has advertised that he is on the Brexiteers’ side of the argument (closer to a Canada solution, not wanting to hug the EU too close).
Some Brexiteers sound like they have had a change of tack, feeling that they can’t realistically diverge too much from the EU post Brexit and post Transition, given the balance of forces in this Parliament.
Brexiteers talk of a relentless focus now on getting Brexit itself. All else can wait for the day after, or as it has been tagged in some talk amongst the Brexiteers “B + 1.” That sounds like an allusion to D Day + 1 but its was presumably thought “B Day + 1” didn’t sound so stirring as a slogan. We’ve already seen that focus lead Brexiteers to come behind a divorce settlement with the EU that yields a lot more ground than they had previously supported.
Now some Tory Brexiteers are talking about being willing to accept the idea of a further period of alignment for some sectors that follows the end of the Transition. This could be the outline of a Cabinet consensus which would then be put up to the EU27 to see if they could accept it. It’s not at all clear that they would. One pro-Brexit minister said a rejection by the EU27 would suit him fine. His side would’ve shown willing. They’d tried, they’d not been obstructive. Then it would be time for their preferred option: a more distant, conventional Free Trade Agreement approach.