A customs union is both incompatible with Brexit and a damaging path to pursue

A customs union is both incompatible with Brexit and a damaging path to pursue

We’re a soft-hearted lot. Always keen to support the underdog (understandable, because it’s usually us) and ever ready to opt for soggy compromises rather than asserting the national interest. The result is now the soft-hearted pursuit of any settlement, however soggy. The danger is that this can only do more damage, not provide a good ending to the Brexit battle.

The soft-hearted are now focusing on two soggy solutions. One is a ‘People’s Vote’. This sounds democratic but is really an attempt to overrule the first People’s Vote and absolve the politicians of their responsibility. Besides, you can’t have a vote until you’ve got a settlement on which to vote.

The other solution is a customs union, a way of shackling us into the EU while pretending to leave. Unfortunately this achieves none of the benefits of Brexit. It stops trade deals with other countries, precludes state aid to industry and an effective regional policy. It keeps the protectionism of the Common Agricultural Policy. It allows the EU to make rules for us and offer our market to other countries without any reciprocal benefit to us.

It is in short disastrous. Which makes it surprising that Labour, the soft-hearted party, is advocating it. A soft exit it may be, but it’s also daft and damaging. Those Tories attacking St Theresa for negotiating with a Marxist monster clearly don’t understand the issue. Labour may once have been more Methodist than Marxist. Now we’re more Europhile than either. Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels is our inspiration, not old Karl in Highgate.

Which leaves Theresa trapped. An agreed deal with Labour was never likely and would be disastrous on these terms. In its soft-hearted (and softer-headed) spasm, Parliament – and Theresa’s own timidity – have ruled out No Deal. The EU says that the bad agreement they’ve got is the furthest they’ll go. If they agree to an extension, it will only be for further concessions from us.

This looks like the end of the line, the point to which rampant Remainers wanted to bring us in the hope that we’ll give up, accept humiliation and crawl back to be drained by recession-ridden Europe. Yet there is a way out and it’s not more soft-hearted concessions. It’s to dump Theresa, as they did Neville Chamberlain, elect a new Tory leader and start a tougher negotiation from scratch. The EU would have to accept that, though our domestic fifth column might have difficulties.