If those with the highest level of rose tinting in their spectacles, or those who look at a half-full glass and see it positively overflowing, believed for an iota that there would somehow be a last-minute deal reached to prevent the United Kingdom from crashing out of the European Union (EU), they need to have their eyes checked now and drain the contents of that glass.
All hope is lost.
Sure, there are a couple of parliamentary sessions where the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, will keep the baying sheep and clapping seals in line with his theatrical shouts of “Order! Order!” — but there is no deal.
Nor will there be a second referendum. Nor a third.
Come 11:01pm on March 29 — SIX weeks from now, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU. It will do so without a deal. And World Trade Organisation rules will automatically apply.
So why is all hope lost now, with still some parliamentary sessions for Brexit debate left and enough time for Prime Minister Theresa May to clock up some more air miles travelling between London and Brussels?
It’s the Customs Union.
At the weekend, May rejected the idea of joining a customs union with the EU 27 — you can throw in Lichtenstein, Andorra, Iceland and Norway as well for good measure as they’re already in the wider European Economic Area.
As someone who has watched this Brexit debacle unfold, and watched both two main British parties pull themselves apart over an issue that few other than some empire loyalists on the right-wing fringes of the Conservative party actually cared about, for a few moments last Friday and Saturday I was convinced that there could be a way to avoid this moronic morass.
Remember that backstop? That’s the guarantee that May’s government solemnly gave to the EU27 that no matter what happened down the road, there would never be a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the south of the island.
That backstop is so critical to the EU27, that it must remain. And the only way for it not to be in any agreement, is for the UK to concede that it stays in the customs union.
My thinking was that because the fears of a no-deal Brexit are now so great and there is so much concern in the UK about the prospect of food shortages, a crashing pound, public unrest, thousands of wide-scale job losses and a lack of medicinal supplies, the Brits would somehow see sense and accept the customs union, dropping the backstop and getting on with an orderly withdrawal.
My thinking was reinforced by a dinner meeting Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar had with May in Dublin late last week. Not much was officially being said, but all the background noises coming from that supper was that the mood was positive, and they actually got around to discussing some non-Brexit business — mainly the Northern Ireland regional parliament that hasn’t met in a year and the power-sharing administration in Belfast, which is in deep freeze.
Even if May did agree to that backstop, it has caused a lot of friction between Dublin and London — more so given that May relies on the 10 Democratic Unionist party MPs for her parliamentary majority in the House of Commons.
But the backstop wasn’t a topic for discussion, except in passing, and Varadkar described the supper talks as being very productive.
What’s more, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote a letter to May, laying out his conditions for backing a withdrawal deal before March 29. And top of that wasn’t a call for a second referendum, as the majority of his party wants, but rather staying in the customs union.
So, all the ducks were lining up for a last-minute concession on the customs union, ending the need for the backstop, and laying the foundation for a last-minute grand deal that would satisfy most people in the UK — except for those right-wing empire loyalists on the fringe on the Conservative party. It would also have allowed the collective leadership of the EU in Brussels to offer platitudes on the strength of diplomacy, teamwork, the European experiment, democratic values, blah, blah blah.
Once Corbyn put pen to paper and offered that Customs Union arrangement, the Eurocrats in Brussels where ecstatic. This was the compromise they believed would allow May to reverse course. It was the only sensible course. This was the concession that would break the log jam and allow all 27 governments and the European Commission itself sign off and say that sanity might prevail.
Ah yes, sanity.
Silly me. Sanity has no place in politics.
Sanity is an awkward bedfellow for the Conservatives. And sanity is in short supply at the moment in British politics. How else can you explain a nation that is intent on committing economic hara-kiri in six weeks’ time?