The Times on ... Brexit

The Dominion Post - - Opinion -

Bri­tish rev­o­lu­tions tend to hap­pen in slow mo­tion. The his­to­ries of many na­tions are framed by bloody de­mo­li­tions and the top­pling of stat­ues. On these shores the state is made and re­made by de­bate, com­pro­mise and the du­ti­ful func­tion of po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions. They are to be tested now.

Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment has two years to forge Bri­tain’s fu­ture im­age, self-im­age, le­gal or­der and for­eign pol­icy. She made a promis­ing start with her let­ter to the Euro­pean Coun­cil’s Don­ald Tusk.

The process now in train means an end to pre­tend­ing on both sides. From mar­ket-stall hag­gling to the most grandiose sum­mitry, every ne­go­ti­a­tion starts with a per­for­mance. The char­ac­ters de­mand as much as they can with­out dent­ing their cred­i­bil­ity or their au­di­ence’s good­will, but all know there is de­ceit in this. As par­ties wrangle, red lines are uncovered. Dis­agree­ments be­come stand-offs. Stand-offs be­come trade-offs. Trade-offs be­come the com­pro­mises on which any deal must be based.

When David Cameron tried to rene­go­ti­ate Bri­tain’s place in the EU, he was too quick to com­pro­mise. Mrs May should not make the same mis­take. The deft ne­go­tia­tor can hold the line and build rap­port at the same time. Both tasks are im­por­tant. Both are well served by Mrs May’s let­ter. Both are soon to get very much harder.

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