While I am still sceptical as to whether the UK would be ready to rejoin the EU any time soon, and likewise not convinced the EU should even have it back, an idea has been in the back of my mind as to how there could indeed be a route to rejoin – but initially this needs a period of political paralysis.
Essentially the situation the UK faces just now, and until the end of the transition period, is one where the British people see no change whatsoever on an everyday basis. That period is due to end less than 11 months for now.
The question then is this: can that position be extended or maintained, or not?
The classic leave-and-then-rejoin argument assumes that the UK will fully and practically leave the EU, that doing so will be bumpy, and then the UK will realise what it has done and, from a point of weakness, rejoin the EU. The problem with that, as I have argued, is the UK is not exactly a country good at recognising its own weaknesses, and the current Government is all too happy to blame the EU for anything and everything, creating a blame narrative.
But here is another route.
Johnson has said the transition period, pencilled to terminate at the end of 2020, cannot be extended. But getting any proper deal done by then is an extremely long shot. Meaning at least some of the big issues will be kicked further into the future. So the transition period will be followed by a 2021-2023 implementation period, accompanied by a standing committee on UK-EU standards alignment, leading to the regular meetings of the Cross Channel Divergence Taskforce… and by which time they even will have driven the tireless Michel Barnier into retirement.
You see where I am going here. Brexit just gets inexorably stuck. And the willingness to see it through dampens. With no parliamentary drama to report on, the newspapers move on to other topics. Johnson hasn’t had much stomach for it all along, and with a majority of more than 80 even in 2022 or 2023 is not in any imminent danger anyway.
That means then by 2023 or so a resurgent Labour Party, organisationally and politically rebuilt by the leadership duo of Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner and now 15 points ahead of the Tory Party in the polls, have to work out their Brexit position prior to the 2024 election. They promise to rejoin the EU by 2029, not because Brexit actually happened and was a disaster, but had just got stuck in a cycle of tedium but nevertheless with the UK outside the mainstream of EU decision making.
The UK is stuck, the line will be. Having been trying to do this Brexit for 7 years now (2016 to 2023) and with no benefit or end of the process in sight, better to regain a seat at the table than pursue this endeavour still further. It’s the political paralysis route to rejoin.