May’s attempted political assassination has come to look a bit like that final scene in Reservoir Dogs in which the heist has gone wrong and everybody has a gun being trained on them. And that scene does not end well.

The good news is that the Prime Minister’s Brexit surrender would mean us not crashing out of the EU without a deal. The bad news is that we would still have the crash but without the consolation of the out.

Mrs May’s inclusion in her ‘deal’ of an Irish backstop concession is doubly obnoxious. Firstly because while it’s being sold as a means of protecting the Belfast Agreement it’s actually just a violation of it. Secondly, despite assurances that the backstop is unlikely to be activated it will in effect come to life immediately upon our fake departure from the EU.

It is a stipulation of the Belfast Agreement that no change in the constitutional relationship between Northern Ireland and Great Britain can be effected without the consent of the majority of Northern Irish voters. May’s proposals will significantly alter that relationship, and nobody will have consented to them. Not one vote cast in 2016 was intended to bring about this Heath Robinson monstrosity.

And the ‘backstop’ is no such thing. The withdrawal agreement will be the framework within which the EU and the UK (whatever that term will come to signify) will pretend to develop a trade deal. As soon as those fake negotiations begin the “backstop” will come to life and will serve as an animating principle for all the subsequent discussions. As they say in Belfast, even the dogs on the street know this to be the case.

One wonders how Mrs May would react if a plebiscite were to be held on capital punishment and the vote were to split 52-48 in favour of restitution. Would our judges be passing out sentences to the effect that the murderer before him be hanged by the neck only until 52 per cent dead in order to accommodate the sensibilities of the other 48 per cent? The Brexit vote was close, but it was also decisive and her obligation – which she freely sought – was not accommodation but reconciliation. There is no middle way between leaving and remaining – the very character of the institution we voted to leave prevents that. The Prime Minister sought a compromise in a situation where compromise was conceptually unavailable. We can call this her failure of logic.

If the Prime Minister’s Brexit adventure was shaped by incoherence it has also been characterised by missed opportunity. It is true that any First Lord of the Treasury must give due diligence to the economic consequences of policy. But, Mrs May has promoted the economic idea over the national idea in a misconceived response to an assertion by 17.4 million people that the national idea was what concerned them. National sovereignty is a precondition of economic activity and is therefore not reducible to it. And while it is true that a clean Brexit would involve a degree of economic uncertainty the reason for this is not to be found in the nature of Brexit but in the nature of economics. Economic activity is human activity and uncertainty is a feature of the human predicament. Mrs May does not get this. We might call this her failure of imagination.

So who, if anyone, can rescue us from this dismal capitulation? Assuming the Conservative Party grows a spine the obvious candidate seems to be Boris Johnson. But this is not a straightforwardly attractive possibility. It is not clear that Johnson always sees the essentials in any given situation. Were a piano to fall from the sky and land on his head one suspects he would spend his final seven seconds reaching for an appropriate Homeric metaphor with which to describe his misfortune. It would not occur to him that “A piano has fallen on my head” would serve to fully convey both the gravity and the oddness of the situation. Mere turn of phrase does not a statesman make. A sense of language is not necessarily an adequate indicator of political sense. When the piano figuratively dropped in June 2016 Johnson fluffed it. He needs, perhaps, to take some responsibility for the subsequent evaporation of common sense that allowed the quisling Remainer to seize the crown unchallenged.

So who else? Michael Gove?  Gove appears to have two settings: the ludicrous and the sinister. We are led to believe he refused the job of Brexit secretary on the grounds that he would be unable to renegotiate May’s agreement. He decided instead to stay in the Cabinet to renegotiate May’s agreement. That day was the ludicrous, doubtless the next day he vacillated to the sinister.

As I write this, however, there is no challenge. And quite possibly there won’t be. The Leave rear-guard has perhaps come to see too late that having right on your side does not inoculate you against being had over. The attempted political assassination has come to look a bit like that final scene in Reservoir Dogs in which the heist has gone wrong and everybody has a gun being trained on them. And that scene does not end well.

But does it matter? The latest conceit being put about by the May camp is that getting rid of her won’t make a difference. Her “deal” we are told, is the only one that is logically available. This is a bit like Frankenstein saying that the monster has nothing to do with him, and that anybody else who had negotiated with the forces of nature would have had the same results. It is a piece of nonsense predicated upon an absurdly arrogant view of one’s place in the scheme of things. We might call this her failure of character.

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