Westminster may look a strange and fevered place to those milling about the corridors of the Palace and its surroundings. What of the view from the Yarrow Valley far away in the Scottish Borders where I live? Well, here are a few detached or detachable thoughts.
First, to understand Mrs May you should think of her hero, Geoffrey Boycott. Boycott was a rarity among very good, even great, batsmen. He could stay at the wicket even when completely out of form and touch. There were days when his timing was so poor that he couldn’t get the ball off the square. But he stuck it out. He didn’t throw his wicket away in despair or exasperation. He plodded obstinately on, in the hope that his timing would recover. Sometimes it did. Sometimes it didn’t. Mrs May is plodding obstinately on, even though she looks as if she is at best treading water, and in danger of drowning…
Second, she nevertheless holds one strong card. She has agreed a Withdrawal Deal with the EU. It has been approved by the Council of Ministers, the Commission and, if reports reaching the Yarrow Valley are accurate, by the European Parliament.
Third, Mrs May’s deal is therefore a done deal, awaiting only the approval of the House of Commons. If that approval isn’t forthcoming, there is no other deal on offer, and we leave the EU without a deal.
Fourth, it is impossible for the Commons to “take control” . No matter how many “indicative votes” are held, there is no majority for anything that matters, and it’s doubtful whether the House of Commons can revoke Article 50, even if it says it wants to.
Fifth, the EU insisted that a Withdrawal Agreement should precede discussion of its future relationship with the UK. Mrs May’s deal is the Withdrawal Agreement. Questions about a customs union, the Norway option, the Canada option, the WTO option, the rich pie in the cloud-cuckoo sky option, all become relevant only when negotiations concerning the UK’s future relationship with the EU get underway.
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Sixth, this spectator from the Yarrow Valley regrets the whole thing. He voted Remain, but he fears that a Second Referendum, whatever the result, would be even nastier than the first, and entrench divisions still more deeply.
Seventh, he sees that the Prime Minister, like her Yorkshire hero, is still at the crease, unable to score but holding on doggedly. She may – to shift the metaphor – be left with only one card, but it’s a high one. Indeed it’s the Ace – the only deal that is rooted in immediate reality and isn’t the sort of request children shout up the chimney on Christmas Eve, hoping that Santa will oblige.