European leaders want some clarity

David Cameron said he would trigger Article 50 immediately in the event of losing the referendum.  His successor Theresa May decided otherwise but five months later nothing of substance has happened and we have no idea why. We have learned that “Brexit means Brexit” but are given no idea what that means. May has reiterated the need  to control immigration and remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court,  while somehow “giving British companies maximum freedom to trade and operate in the single market”. There seems to be no recognition that the two are incompatible, or “intellectually impossible and politically unavailable” as Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem put it in a most insightful article in the Guardian. Frustration has risen in EU capitals because reiteration of the principle that access to the single market is linked to the Four Freedoms is being portrayed in some British media as a hardening of political positions.  “There is absolutely no bluffing from the EU side, no saying, ‘We will start in this position and then soften up,” said Maltese premier Joseph Muscat. “No, this is really and truly our position and it will not change.” ““It is not about toughening up the points, it is about setting the record straight,” said an unnamed official. To put it more bluntly, EU leaders want to know what Brexit terms the British want that do not imply or risk the destruction of the Union and its fundamental principles. It should be simple – except perhaps for those who wish for or are prepared to gamble on destruction of the Union and its principles.