Brexiters have one objective: to be able to say on the morning of Saturday 30 March 2019 that the UK is out of the European Union.
“…the choice we face now is not between this Brexit and that Brexit; if we don’t back Theresa May we will have no Brexit.” Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, 3 December 2017
All the while the UK is in the EU, Brexit risks being cancelled. Either because talks with the rest of the EU collapse, a general election, another referendum or a change of prime minister.
The best prospects of Brexit happening is for Brexiters to back the PM. And for Mrs May, the best prospects of making Brexit happen is to agree to the EU’s Brexit process.
Once the UK is out of the EU, the Brexiters’ mission is accomplished, because the UK is then a third country and out of the EU. For those who voted to remain, the narrative then changes from one of stopping Brexit to one of rejoining the EU.
For remain voters it’s currently easier to stop Brexit than to subsequently campaign to rejoin the EU. A point not lost on Brexiters.
But the Brexit contradictions continue.
Having discharged the referendum mandate on 29 March 2019, Mrs May’s problems really begin. Her government faces a new deadline of 31 December 2020. That gives her and her ministers 21 months to fully implement her version of a hard Brexit. A task without peacetime parallel for a government that has already been consumed by the ongoing fallout from a referendum for the preceding three years.
For remain supporters, the campaign then begins for the UK to rejoin the EU. For having discharged the referendum result on 29 March 2019, political parties or anyone else will be free to adopt “rejoin the EU” policies.
The UK can re-apply to join the EU, but the process could be lengthy. Having been through a troublesome Brexit process, would all the EU member states really be willing to re-admit the UK?
Perhaps a permanent version of the forthcoming transition period would be easier. It would certainly be easier for the UK government with its track record of capitulation and indecision.