And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Brexit is dead. Even its most Spartan of supporters declare it so.
“Britain is going to rejoin the EU far sooner than anyone now imagines,” ran the headline above a comment piece in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. “It is the Tories’ greatest betrayal: they have made such a hash of the project it is probably unsalvageable.”
The article is notable in that it is by Sherelle Jacobs, even by the Telegraph’s standards an enthusiastic supporter of Britain wrenching itself from the world’s most successful union of nations. The EU, she told her readers in 2021, is “a failed federation not just riven by power struggles and vanity, but tormented by suspicion of ‘Anglo-Saxon” freedom’.” She added gleefully: “Every day brings a fresh reminder that the UK was lucky to escape when it still had the opportunity.”
Oh, Sherelle! For now, less than 18 months on, she surveys the wreckage of the project she supported so ardently. And she does not like what she sees.
“The EU was meant to result in the UK taking back control of immigration policy,” she laments. “Instead, the government flees from a frank national conversation about the trade-offs between the economy’s insatiable appetite for cheap labour and the popular desire to limit numbers.
“Brexit was meant to make our economy more competitive. And yet the government has increased taxes to a peacetime high as the big business lobby obstructs deregulation efforts lest it increase competition. Brexit’s only major achievement to date is that it has scathingly exposed the ineptitude of this country’s political class.”
And yes, it is worth mentioning as a pundit, Jacobs is, well, fitful. In the run-up to the 2019 general election she wrote how “with Boris Johnson snookered by Remainers, the Tory Party is almost certainly finished”, then little more than a month later how “fatuous Remainer MPs have just become the useful idiots of the Leave cause”. On November 7 that year she wrote that “the Tories’ botched game plan in the Labour heartlands could cost Boris Johnson this election” and then, exactly a week later that “Labour is on the brink of the most seismic wipeout in British election history”. She was right on the last one. Less so when, in September this year, she wrote how “the Labour Party is dangerously underestimating Liz Truss’s Tories”.
But it remains the fact that even the hardest of hard Brexiteers are being given space in their own house journal to declare their project – their sole project, their reason for being in government, for many, their reason for being in politics – is dead. They look on their life’s work and see only ashes. “If the first elephant in the room is that Brexit’s days are numbered, then the second is that the Conservative brand cannot possibly survive such an ignominious outcome,” writes Jacobs. Amen.
It is sometimes remarked that for the Brexiteers, like the Communists, their project only failed because it was never properly tried. “Where are the Brexit Spartans?,” laments Jacobs, the answer being largely on the backbenches, their 50 days in office under the Truss government she cheerled for having crashed and burned spectacularly.
The Brexiteers got everything – everything – they asked for. Detachment from the single market and customs union. Full parliamentary sovereignty. The end of freedom of movement. And it was, and is, never, ever enough for them. If Brexit is dead, as Jacobs says, it is its loudest and most implacable of supporters who killed it.