The Chequers Plan is still-born. Theresa May cannot command a Tory majority in Parliament for her fatal compromise. The votes can be found only by turning to the opposition, and that way lies Sir Robert Peel and the schism of 1846.
The Prime Minister overplayed her hand disastrously by trying to bounce the Cabinet and the Parliamentary party into support for a settlement that violates the electoral manifesto, the Lancaster House speech, the verdict of the referendum, and the minimum conditions of sovereign self-government.
An entirely new Brexit chapter is suddenly upon us. Anything is now possible. The spectrum ranges – by way of a snap election – from "Global Britain" on WTO terms at one end, to a Corbyn government at the other.
Markets are belatedly waking up to the enormity of this. There had been a view among currency traders that the resignation of David Davis would clear the way for an even softer Brexit, or partial EU membership without voting rights to be more accurate. Sterling briefly rallied. The departure of Boris Johnson hours later shattered that illusion.
Thirty Conservative MPs were in revolt even before the misjudged lock-in at Chequers. They now have two of Brexit’s Cabinet heavyweights in their camp, flanked by Jacob Rees-Mogg and the seventy-strong militia of the European Research Council. The floodgates have opened. It is surely only a matter of time before the requisite 48 letters needed to trigger a leadership race arrive at the 1922 Committee.
I do not wish to labour the details of the Chequers Plan. Martin Howe, QC, has already conducted a forensic analysis of what we know about this week’s White Paper. His verdict – all over the internet – is worth repeating:
“These proposals lead directly to a worst-of-all-worlds 'Black Hole' Brexit where the UK is stuck permanently as a vassal state in the EU’s legal and regulatory tarpit, still has to obey EU laws and ECJ rulings across vast areas, cannot develop an effective international trade policy, and has lost its vote and treaty vetoes rights.”
Yes, it pulls Britain out of the EU’s foreign policy sphere (Pillar 2), and "justice and home affairs" (Pillar 3). It remains to be seen how this squares with Mrs May’s Munich pledge in February to accept the writ of the European Court in dealings with Europol, Eurojust, and the European Arrest Warrant.
It removes the UK from the ambit of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This was the mechanism by which the ECJ was acquiring jurisdiction over almost anything it wanted – in violation of Britain’s opt-out under Protocol 30 – and was the biggest single reason why I voted for Brexit. Hurrah for that.
Ambrose Evans Pritchard