BRITAIN’S Brexit battlelines were clear to see at three setpiece political events yesterday which only served to highlight the country’s deep divisions.
As Theresa May’s Cabinet met to discuss the blueprint that had been agreed at Chequers – the one word not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s emergency address after being rebuffed by EU leaders at Salzburg – David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary, was launching a new free trade plan with Jacob Rees-Mogg.
It’s difficult to see how this can work when Mr Davis, the Haltemprice and Howden MP, actually had two years as Brexit Secretary, and this country’s lead negotiator with the EU, to shape the Government’s position and come up with a workable plan for Northern Ireland’s border.
And then, 220 miles north of London, the Labour leadership tied itself up in knots over growing pressure from activists for a second referendum – the so-called People’s Vote.
Hours of deliberation led the composition of a consensus motion which will be put to conference delegates today and effectively enables the party to keep all options open – the type of indecision that is indicative of the Opposition under Jeremy Corbyn and emblematic of how Britain will be governed if he does become Prime Minister.
Yet, while Mrs May’s tense talks with the EU become the ultimate game of political brinkmanship, rather than a statesmanlike negotiation, the country’s future is very much on the line and Britain will face an unparalleled constitutional crisis if leaders on both sides of the Brexit debate, and political divide, fail to show the leadership that voters have a right to expect.
For, whatever happens politically, Mrs May – or her successor – will still be tasked with trying to unify the country after one of the most divisive periods in Britain’s post-war history. And the longer politicians work against each other like this, the harder this invidious task will become.