Mrs Mayhem's Brexit strategy revealed
Mrs Mayhem knows it’s impossible to unify her party on the terms of Brexit in the near future. I believe she also knows it’s impossible to negotiate a new relationship with the EU before March 2019, given the limited time and lack of consensus at home. Her strategy is to simply get beyond March 2019, relying on the idea that, once Britain is out of the EU, the terms of debate will change. There will be no point arguing whether Britain might somehow remain in the EU after Britain has left. Mrs Mayhem hopes her party might have a chance of coming together around the next big question, what sort of relationship should Britain have with the EU, after leaving.
This is a risky strategy. Britain will be in an even weaker negotiating position after Brexit. The question was raised in an exchange between Jacob Rees Mogg and David Davis in parliament recently when JRM asked if it might not make more sense to extend the Article 50 deadline rather than embarking on a transition to an unknown destination. Davis brushed this aside but I believe JRM was right, for once. It would serve Britain’s interests much better to extend the Article 50 deadline, and keep all options open, rather than exiting the EU without a clear destination and a comprehensive agreement.
I believe campaigners for a new referendum should focus on trying to extend Article 50. This could be introduced into the Brexit Bill as a House of Lords amendment. I believe many Leavers, and most Remainers, would support it and it offers a realistic pathway to eventually resolving the Brexit conundrum. It could be very divisive among Brexit headbangers. They would really struggle with the fact that Rees Mogg proposed it.
The stark fact is that there are still too many disaffected Leavers to be sure a new referendum would deliver a different result. A few years in the Article 50 departure lounge might allow tempers to cool sufficiently to assemble a broad consensus around negotiating a new long-term future for Britain, within the EU.