Sound & Fury Signifies ... Little

In the week since our last post, we have not changed our view that the tectonic plates of British politics are settling around acceptance of Brexit. Of course, there are always aftershocks.

Both parties are seeing a series of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions from furious Remainers who cannot accept the new reality. A few days spent reading the comments under relevant articles in the Financial Times will confirm that there is a body of irreconcilables in the City, while Sadiq Khan, who cannot speak for England, speaks for London with a claim that the result may still be reversed.

Of course, nothing in politics is absolutely certain. In theory, the result could be reversed if the DUP were to be replaced by the Liberal Democrats at the price of a Second Referendum and a Second Referendum then resulted in a mass national vote for a return to a European Union. Yes, it is possible but the reality is that a large number of Remainers are where William Hague is today - accepting the democratic vote, wanting no more disruption but seeking the infamous 'transitional arrangements' to soften the landing. Trouble is - trust between the sides is now at a low ebb.

This is where the City and the business community may have made life difficult for itself. A few weeks ago, the mood amongst most Brexiters was a rather gloomy acceptance that political conditions now meant that Brexit would be softened somewhat and that 'liberals' would pull the country further towards an accommodation with the European Union that was some way off their purist vision of national democratic self-determination. Yet a large meeting of influential Brexiters last Wednesday in Central London, whille still filled with gloom, were now getting ready to fight.

What had happened between the 'acceptance of the inevitable' and last Wednesday was that Prime Minister May went on holiday and the Chancellor, encouraged by the big business networks whose mouthpiece is the Financial Times, started behaving as if he was the Deputy Prime Minister. In her absence, after a period of the PM attempting to stop leaks and public political warfare, Hammond began to lay down policy that appeared to drag the country to the maximal transitional arrangements model most feared by Brexiters and most desired by the City of London and multinationals.

Was this another strategic mistake by the business lobby? Hammond was not authorised fully to make some of his claims, made yet more assertively over the weekend - especially on free movement of labour. The fear that he was so authorised undercut acceptance of a genuine consensus within the Cabinet on the need for transitional arrangements, galvanised angry Brexiters who had effectively retired from battle, created a new atmosphere of distrust around the Government's intentions and forced the serious Brexiter Liam Fox to contradict Hammond in public on his free movement claim.

Instead of 'letting sleeping dogs lie' and bringing softer terms in by stealth, the 'strategists' managed to trigger a 'sack Hammond' petition, promoted by Leave.EU (over 29,000 signatories at the time of writing and rising), increased the gloomy Brexiters' determination to reorganise and, worse still, linked a soft Brexit to the austerity measures of the Chancellor, weakening still further the chances of a cross-party alliance for Remain. In the end, it will all be papered over and there will be transitional arrangements proposed to the EU but Hague is right - Brexit is a fact on the ground.