Brexit has dominated our politics and media like nothing any of us can remember. It has distracted the government, condemned a thousand trees to news pulp and caused rifts between friends and families that show no signs of healing.
There is no precedent for an issue that has generated so much heat and so little light. Theresa May has faced an impossible task.She has had to play a hand of poker where the other side can keep its cards close to its chest while she has to lay her cards face up on the table and have the entire population looking over her shoulder telling her what she’s just done wrong.
Neither Winston Churchill nor Margaret Thatcher would have found that an easy game to play.
Recently, however, the prime minister has had some notable successes. She closed the first phase of the talks and last week her Brexit secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier agreed the terms of a transitional package designed to ensure a smooth exit for the UK.
Her firm stance over the Salisbury poisoning also gained widespread support in Brussels, with several key member states taking action in solidarity. Trump’s unpredictability and his obvious admiration for strongman dictators like Xi and Putin make the UK’s relationship with the US an important element in European security generally.
Find out more - Article 50: a year on
How many times have I said in this column that the only deal that works has to work for both sides? Both sides have made concessions, but what is becoming clearer by the day is that the UK will leave the EU and will continue to trade with it on terms that are very similar to those existing today. This upsets some hardline leavers but for me it has always been the ideal outcome.
I seriously dislike the EU. I want to leave an organisation that has morphed into something no democrat can have any confidence in and that I did not vote for when I voted to stay in the EEC in 1975. But I bear no animosity whatsoever towards Europe. We are Europeans and our future for better or worse is the future of this continent. I want us to trade as efficiently as we have done for the past 45 years.
And some simple truths need stating. The Irish border will allow effectively uninterrupted movement as now because it suits both sides. We will not find, as a Lib Dem MP ludicrously threatened last week, that mobile providers reintroduce roaming charges. They’ve cancelled them because customers got so angry at being ripped off. Our airlines will continue to land wherever they land now because our neighbours want our money. Air traffic control will continue to ensure that planes don’t crash into each other.
The ability of some remainers to see problems that simply don’t exist never ceases to amaze me. Mind you, it is ironic that hardline leavers who prattle on about the importance of free markets whine Trump-like protectionist rhetoric when a foreign company says it will produce our passports at £120m less than De La Rue. How many of the complainers are driving cars made in the UK?
One day, probably some time in 2021, this country will start to concentrate on our ageing population, on income inequality, on our underinvested infrastructure and, yes, on our abject failure to produce a decent planning system and fix the housing crisis. Until then, whichever side you’re on you are condemned to more of the same meaningless drivel on Brexit from both sides for at least the next two years. God help us.
Steve Norris is chairman of Soho Estates and senior adviser to BNP Paribas Real Estate
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The ideal Brexit outcome has to work for both sides