The Times on ... Brexit
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.