Boris has a mandate to get Brexit done – but don’t underestimate how slippery Brussels will be

Boris has a mandate to get Brexit done – but don’t underestimate how slippery Brussels will be

As the Grauniad comes out edged in black, I’ll be celebrating Brexit day with a quiet pint of milk from non-farting Yorkshire cows.

We should make it a genuinely national celebration by a magnanimous gesture to those who’ve buggered us around for the last three years: why not give a pound bag of Brussels sprouts to all the Euroflag wavers as they hand in their redundant flags? No need to reward the senior fifth column. They’re sure to get a plastic medal allowing free access to every pay toilet in Europe…

Celebration is justified. But don’t think the battle is over. The goal of a fair break to boost Britain rather than shackling it to the decaying hulk of the EU is still to be won.

Forget all the bromides about close and meaningful relationships. For the EU that means accepting their rules, their shackles and their decisions. We’re now their consumer of last resort keeping their industry and agriculture going. So they won’t welcome efforts to reduce our huge balance of trade deficit, any effort to build up our industries or any relationships with alternative suppliers to offer a better deal.

The EU can’t negotiate. It can only demand. It won’t relax its inflexible rules about free movement of labour and capital, the ban on state aid and the neoliberal economics which subject them all to Germany. These are the conditions for belonging to its protective bloc – and it can’t allow them to be undermined, particularly by a neighbour as close and important as Britain.

So instead of negotiating as they should do under Article 50, their aim will be to drag things out, delay decisions and claim that with 27 members needing to agree, they can’t meet deadlines – thereby making things as difficult as possible for our negotiators.

This in turn re-empowers their fifth column which has divided the country and encouraged the EU to be as difficult as possible for three wasted years. At the moment they’re bemused and battered, with Labour beginning to think they should shut up on Brexit and accept that the job of opposition is to see that government implements the wishes of the people. Sadly that lesson hasn’t been learned by the last ditchers for whom the EU is a matter of religion, not national interest.

The fifth column which made the EU so obdurate is still there. Although it can’t now encourage the EU or justify any punishments it wants to impose on us as negotiations prove difficult, they will undermine our case, demand that it should be agreed by Parliament and Tony Blair, raise the old fears of “No Deal” and urge the acceptance of an unsatisfactory one. The EU is still their religion and for them all’s fair in love and Brexit.

Don’t despair. The Government has a majority, the people want Brexit done and the EU will no longer be encouraged in intransigence by the British fifth column who’ve been deeply discredited. In an uncertain world where the EU is less relevant, it’s more difficult in the eyes of the world to set out to undermine and punish us.

Boris is right in settling a tight timetable for an institution which can delay and obfuscate forever. He’s right too to negotiate with other countries, particularly the US, to keep up the pressure. Yet in dealing with such a slippery and devious antagonist, it would be a mistake to take anything for granted.