Leader comment: Hard-Brexiteers are pushing UK over cliff

Politicians of all parties need to work together to secure a Brexit deal that will protect the UK economy

Politicians of all parties need to work together to secure a Brexit deal that will protect the UK economy

More than two years after the EU referendum, the UK Government still has not worked out what it actually wants to happen.

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Two options for customs arrangements after Brexit were drawn up in full knowledge that both would be unacceptable to factions within the Conservative party and also, more importantly, the European Union.

These have now reportedly been ditched with the belated realisation that they were either practically or politically impossible to deliver. And so a third option has been hurriedly cobbled together and Cabinet ministers are to hold an “away day” at Chequers later this week in the hope that they will finally be able to make up their collective mind. Some hope.

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The problem is the Conservative party is far from being of one mind on this issue and Theresa May appears to have been more concerned with holding her party’s warring factions together than actually doing what is in the country’s best interest. Her watchwords during this process appear to have been delay, dither and dissemble, but unfortunately, time is now running out.

As the head of the 60-strong European Research Group of hard-Brexiteer MPs, Jacob Rees-Mogg is effectively the leader of a party within a party. He has warned they will not sign up to anything short of a clean break, prompting fellow Sir Alan Duncan, a fellow Tory MP and Government minister, to criticise Rees-Mogg’s “insolence”. “The ideological right are a minority despite their noise and should pipe down,” he tweeted. This is the language of people in different parties.

Government reports, the business community and expert after expert have warned of the serious damage that could be done to the UK economy in the event of a no-deal Brexit. But Brexit hardliners continue to insist no deal is better than a bad deal, while rejecting anything the looks like a reasonable compromise, a tactic designed to take advantage of May’s understandable hopes of keeping her party together. If the UK cannot decide what it wants, it will end up getting exactly what they want.

Politicians of all parties need to realise the old fault lines do not apply on this issue and that, for the sake of the nation, they must form an ad hoc ‘national coalition of the sensible’ to secure a Brexit deal that will outrage the hardliners but save the economy from disaster.