When a patient suffers a mental breakdown gradualism is often a key part of the treatment. You don’t overnight make a mad person sane, you work gradually building their confidence and step by sometimes painful step normality returns. And so it is with Britain. On one baleful day in 2016 the English Patient committed a near fatal act of self harm. The consequences of this horror are very much with us, but so are the signs of cure – albeit shining dimly for now.
For Britain to be the only country in Europe without a trade deal in Europe and via this with the rest of the world is clearly preposterous. The modern world is interdependent and relationships have to be covered by rules. Even some of the most strident Brexiteers didn’t want to leave the single market or the customs union – let’s not do it. We should be able to cobble together an arrangement based on those of Norway or Iceland or Switzerland that does this. It would be a start and the Patient would start to show signs of recovery. The eyes dulled by confusion would brighten and recognition would return.
The next step might be to remove the annoyances of petty Apartheid – we can have separate development but that does not mean we shouldn’t be able to take our dog with us when we travel. Or not be covered by reciprocal healthcare arrangements. That’s negotiable as well. Freedom of Movement might be more difficult but it can be covered by some new (also reciprocal) “right of work and residence” concession which nominally falls short of a Migration Free-for-all but means that our fruit and vegetables get picked and our young people could continue to live, study, travel and work across thirty countries. Now the Patient is sitting up and taking sustenance. Cure is in sight.
The headbangers will complain that this is “BRINO” – Brexit in Name Only , and they will be right. But, frankly, to coin another acronym TINA. Unless all of us in Britain want to head for the funny farm there is no alternative.