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July 12, 2018

Remainers are facing an acute dilemma now

The jubilation about Theresa May’s U-turn at Chequers is beginning to dissipate, as observers are slowly realising that this has not brought the hoped-for soft Brexit any nearer. 

The FT notes that Boris Johnson’s political career might not be over after all. He could emerge as a real threat to Theresa May in the coming months. His group of followers is now much diminished, though. One of his senior advisers abandoned him. But he and Jacob Rees-Mogg have the potential to challenge May over Brexit. Johnson will not trigger a premature leadership campaign - which he would probably not win at this stage. His strategy is to wait until the withdrawal agreement is done, which will - as we expect - be very close in content to a semi-permanent EEA membership. The FT quotes an unnamed backbencher as saying that Johnson will sit back until May compromises on the free movement of people. 

The Telegraph reports that Donald Trump, who is due in the UK today, may push for a hard Brexit during his talks in the UK. He may express disappointment that May has agreed to a proposal that prevents her from negotiating a free-trade deal with the US.

We noted a rare shift in a commentator’s position in the Brexit debate. David Aaronovich, the Times columnist, is still a strong Remain supporter, but he is becoming more sceptical of the idea of a second referendum, which he used to support. Yes, the Remain side seems to have a small lead in the polls (they did so before the last referendum, too). A Remain campaign would be more coherent this time. But it could all go horribly wrong. Some voters will be irritated at having to go through this for a second time, and may want to punish those who triggered it. And if the Remain supporters form a tactical coalition with the hard Brexiteers to reject what is the equivalent of the Norway option, that might unleash its own political dynamic. What if Leave wins? Can we really be so confident as to exclude that possibility? And if that happens, 

“...something blond and ghastly emerges from the graveyard earth.”

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