The good things about the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence on Friday are that it appears to have the support of her party and Labour has claimed it was stolen from its own policy. If it results in a mainly unified UK and unlocks the negotiations, leading to a fair outcome at a reasonable price, that would be great despite the delay to our independence day.
That outcome is not very certain despite some slightly warmer words from EU representatives than we’ve seen previously. Concessions have been made in the face of obduracy and this must not become the pattern. Although the transition has been put at two years it is actually open-ended. That makes sense if progress has been good but some details need finalising without an arbitrary cut-off. That’s fine. However, it also provides an excuse for the EU to prolong things and UK Remainers to achieve their goal of not really leaving at all if those details include our part in the Single Market and Customs Union and consequently ongoing payments, free movement, oversight by the ECJ and our inability to conclude trade deals with other nations.
We give it a half-hearted, lukewarm welcome if only because something has actually happened. If it doesn’t lead to a breakthrough and rapid progress it won’t have helped in the slightest. Well perhaps if it demonstrated to British politicians, industry and (most importantly) voters that we had tried the best we could and more of them accepted the need to conclude the process of withdrawal without long delay it would have helped.
There is plenty of comment elsewhere which we will not try to repeat. Let’s see first what happens over the next few weeks.