Theresa May stitched together a Brexit deal which includes a UK-wide customs union as the only realistic solution to keeping the Irish border open. But it became clear that, as things stand, the deal has no realistic chance of getting through Parliament.
Brexiteer Tories went into a frenzy of trying to topple the Prime Minister and their rhetoric became more frenetic. Resigning Transport minister Jo Johnson compared May’s predicament to the Suez crisis, while Tory MP Mark Francois compared it to surrendering Singapore to the Japanese in World War Two.
Yet European Union infighting does not stop unforeseen events elsewhere from wrong footing the prime minister. Theresa May can be thankful that they do not receive the coverage they might otherwise if Brexit was not happening. The murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, 60, in Turkey, put our relationship with the desert kingdom under a fresh spotlight, and raised new questions over whether we shouldbe supplying it with Tornado GR4s, Eurofighter Typhoons and an assortment of Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles to attack Yemen with.
Since Saudi entered this nasty little war three years ago, 10,000 have been killed, 2.5 million made homeless, and 400,000 children left close to starvation. In that time, the UK has sold Saudi Arabia £4.7 billion worth of arms. Morally reprehensible, perhaps; politically expedient, certainly. More than 130,000 jobs rely on the arms trade, and Saudi makes up 40 per cent of this market. With a General Election possible at any time, Mrs May could do without tens of thousands of job losses.
But she has a problem. The world rallied round Britain after Vladimir Putin poisoned Salisbury seven months ago. More than 100 Russian spies were expelled from 20 countries in a show of solidarity. Having climbed to the peak of the moral high ground, Mrs May could hardly do nothing in the face of similar state sponsored terrorism by the Saudis. But, aside from joining America in calls for a ceasefire and sending Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to Riyadh to try to broker one, nothing is what she did.
Phil Hammond’s Budget did not contain much unforeseen; everyone foresaw it would be dull and there was little in it than the threat of a more vicious one after Brexit. But Tracey Crouch quit as Sports minister, anyway, after the Chancellor delayed reducing maximum bets on high-stakes gaming machines from £100 to £2. It was one of the most principled walkouts in recent British politics. Talking of taxation, the news that HM Revenue & Customs spent £10,000 sending flowers to taxpayers whom it had upset, prompted Sophie Jarvis, of the Adam Smith Institute, to tweet: “I wish some of my ex-boyfriends had been as courteous when they made a big mistake.”
But if you’re looking for Brexit enlightenment, look no further than someone with “unique expertise, comprehensive knowledge and insight across the whole Brexit process.” That shrinking violet also boasted on linkedin.com of giving “top level strategic advice on policy development” to ministers and No.10. Wow! Who is this superman? Step forward Stewart Jackson, Tory ex-MP, and former chief of staff to David Davis as Brexit Secretary.
Brexit, though, is rough on Gibraltar. More than eight in ten voters turned out for the 2016 EU referendum and 96 percent backed remain, with the Rock’s 24,000 votes counted in the UK total. But that didn’t help its citizens who now face having no representation in the European Parliament. And when the Commons gets its meaningful vote on a final Brexit deal, the Rock that Spain stubs its toe on won’t have a say in that, either.
So when I bumped into Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, I suggested to him that Gibraltar should have its own MP. He didn’t gush with enthusiasm – I suspect because it might dilute his own power. He told me that: “We’d like some representation to strengthen our link with Britain but our own MP would be devilishly difficult.” Picardo thought an MP for overseas territories might work, instead. My turn to be doubtful. The only thing the Falklands and Gibraltar have in common is Spanish-speakers wanting to take them
Finally, a revelation which should make Jacob Rees-Mogg wake up in a cold sweat in his pin-striped pyjamas. Number 10 staffers now refer to the most extreme Brexiteers in his European Research Group as, “the simples”.