“Time to get off Brexit Fantasy Island”

The end of Phase I talks brought the rather devastating disclosure that until this week, the British Cabinet had never actually discussed what the UK wants out of Brexit. In an editorial on Prime Minister Theresa May’s report to the Commons, the Guardian let her have it. It’s worth reading in full – we have just taken a few points which we think are undeniable:

“The Brexit statement she gave to the House of Commons on Monday (18th December) was based not on reality but on unreality. The picture of Britain and Europe that she painted for MPs following last week’s EU summit does not and will not exist. Mrs May’s Brexit Britain is a fantasy island.

“The first fantasy is the idea that that Mrs May is the master of Britain’s fate in these negotiations. This is not true. It was the European Union, united, clear and principled in its approach, that shaped the first phase of Brexit talks, which came to an end last week in Brussels. It will be the same in phase two, which will begin shortly. The final deal about the future trade terms on which the UK leaves the EU will not be settled by March 2019. All that will be settled before that is what the EU in April called “an overall understanding on the framework for a future relationship”.

Second fantasy: “Mrs May pretends the framework will be agreed before March 2019 and implemented after Brexit between 2019 and 2021. This is not true either. The negotiation to produce a real trade deal will take place after March 2019, not before. There will be nothing to implement in 2019.

“The third great fantasy is in many respects the most dangerous of them all. As Mrs May put it on Monday, Britain is committed to uphold the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, to maintain the common travel area with Ireland and, crucially, to avoid a hard border in Ireland. But these goals – all massively desirable – are not compatible with the UK’s departure from the single market and customs union, to which Mrs May remains committed.”