We still don’t know what Brexit means. But thanks to Theresa May’s ‘status quo’ speech in Florence, we do know it won’t be really happening for at least another four years.
The two-year transition period, pushing back ‘real Brexit’ from 2019 to 2021, is the main headline. And there were other key concessions that the EU will bank: guarantees of EU nationals’ rights, no ‘physical’ border in Northern Ireland and, of course, an offer on hard cash. The UK will not only make sure no EU state is out of pocket until 2020, and even more crucially it will “honour commitments” even after a transition. That could unlock the talks with Brussels. May is still on probation with her own backbenchers, and bought herself more time.
But what about the big picture? Some Leave voters may be upset that May will not just keep paying money but also allow EU migration to continue until 2021. They may well angrily throw May’s most famous phrase back at her: “nothing has changed, nothing has changed”. Yet Tory Brexiteers have so far shown a steely patience and will probably be kept on board by her ruling out a Norway-style trade deal in the long-term. Ruling out that option is a decisive victory for them, even though we don’t know what model May will eventually propose. She probably doesn’t know herself yet.
That’s why Remainers, while pleased with the two-year delay, may think today May fiddled while the Treaty of Rome burned.
For our fuller analysis in a WaughZone Special on May’s speech, click HERE.