The atmosphere in Parliament is unpleasant. There’s no denying it. The passions unleashed by the Chequers proposals have been making politics personal. Things are being said that, frankly, should be expressed differently or not at all. Nor is this just within the Conservative Party. Labour is on to its 103rd front bench resignation. And Lib Dem MPs are furious with Vince Cable and Tim Farron who didn’t turn up to a key Customs Union vote on Monday.
But whilst those on the extreme wings of the debate take lumps out of each other, the moderate middle is calmly surveying the landscape and taking stock. And the key landmark is this: the Chequers proposals, as amended, now provide a sensible starting point for negotiations. Suggestions that they’re somehow dead are well wide of the mark. Chequers is in play and, following the amendments on Monday, now enjoys broader support.
It represents a common-sense, pragmatic approach to Brexit. It would safeguard Gloucestershire jobs in manufacturing as well as the constitutional integrity of our United Kingdom, whilst delivering control over our borders and the greatest transfer of powers to the British Parliament since the Bill of Rights in 1689.
And curiously this public blood-letting could actually now help Theresa May in Brussels. It has shown graphically that she does not have political rope to play with. There’s no room for shadow boxing and gamesmanship.
There’s another point too. The visit of President Trump has underscored that the geo-political landscape over the two years has changed. With the President referring to Europe as an economic “foe” there’s reason to think the EU27 will see the value more than ever of securing good relations across our continent. That value applies to the economy, but also to security and the enormous contribution of the British intelligence agencies. Establishing friendly relations, whilst respecting Britain’s sovereign decision, has never been more important.
So, it has been brutal getting here, but a credible platform has been laid for a summer of negotiations. With cool heads, common sense can prevail.