UK quits club then changes rules of game
Future historians will search the UK archives in vain for evidence of a grand Brexit strategy, writes Colm McCarthy
Choices made by Theresa May's government subsequent to the Brexit referendum, and not necessary to comply with the electorate's decision to quit the EU, are at the heart of the continuing stand-off with Brussels.
The electorate did not vote to quit the single market, or to depart the customs union. They were never asked. It has been the political choice of the Conservative government to eschew a damage-limitation policy. Michel Barnier's most significant comment last Thursday following the third round of talks on the UK's withdrawal agreement went like this: "The UK wants to take back control, it wants to adopt its own standards and regulations. But it also wants to have these standards recognised automatically in the EU. That is what UK papers ask for. This is simply impossible. You cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order."
Barnier could draw no other conclusion, and the implication is that the British are either deluded or are refusing to negotiate in good faith. The UK has decided to depart the EU club - it has not been expelled. While any member is perfectly entitled to quit a tennis club, the British are demanding that the remaining members play tennis to different rules after they are gone.