Rick Santorum appears on Piers Morgan Tonight

But has he done himself any favours?

In anticipation of last night's South Carolina primary, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight to talk policy, principles and family.

Santorum rightly predicted that he wouldn't win South Carolina - he finished third behind Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. However, he said he still hopes for a one on one with Mitt Romney and despite Romney and Gingrich's bigger budgets confidently stated that it's "game on" in Florida.

In terms of tactics Santorum said: "I'm a slow and steady kind of guy" and underlined the contrasts between himself and fellow conservative Newt Gingrich. When Morgan asked him "who would you rather be up against, the nice Newt Gingrich or the new nasty Newt?" a fired up Santorum told him: "That's the issue - you don't know what you're going to get with Newt." He admitted: "I'm not the guy you're going to be wowed with, but I'm steady and I'll fight for my convictions." "Steady Eddie" Santorum set himself apart from his fellow Republicans; branding himself as the antithesis to temperamental Newt, flip flopper Mitt Romney and "barking" (Morgan's word) Ron Paul.

He is also in stark contrast to former Republican hopefuls Herman Cain and Rick Perry who were famous for their embarrassing gaffes. Who can forget Cain's confusion over Libya and Perry forgetting which agencies he'd eliminate if he were president? Unquestionably Santorum is a smart man, not hiding behind a Reagan-esque grin or using southern charm to mask the fact that he's not in the know about all the issues - he's a man who knows his stuff.

But the real fight, Santorum stressed, is against Barack Obama - a man with whom Santorum was less than impressed when he worked with him in the Senate. "I didn't like the way he conducted himself," Santorum said. Unsurprisingly, then, Santorum's attitude and approach is at odds with the current president. While he may not ooze charisma and charm, the American people may welcome this and see him as the antidote to Obama's all style no substance leadership for which he has been criticised.

Santorum shone when he spoke about foreign policy, an area where fellow wannabe nominee Ron Paul drastically falls short. Morgan pushed him on Iraq asking him whether he, too, would have invaded and after a few attempts at evading the question Santorum admitted that he would have made the same decision. After 9/11 Santorum said his biggest concern was Iran, not Iraq - and it still is. "I would bomb Iran if I had to - no question," he said.

On Libya, Santorum said: "I wouldn't have gone into Libya - I would never put U.S. troops on the ground unless our national security was threatened." He criticised Obama's "indecisiveness," despite Morgan's observation that no US lives were lost and Gaddafi was successfully killed.

Less than inspiring, however, were Santorum's views on issues such as abortion and gay marriage due to his inability to separate his religion from his policies. "Life begins at conception" and abortion should be banned in every case - even rape and incest, Santorum stressed unequivocally. Morgan, who is famous for asking the tough questions, asked him how he would feel if his daughter was raped and "begged to have an abortion", to which Santorum replied: "I would council her to do the right thing" because "life is gift, no matter how horribly it is created." It's clear that for Santorum, his political principles win every time.

Santorum's wife, Karen, also joined the interview, saying that the biggest misconception about her husband is that "he's not nice." Santorum has certainly disproved that misconception during the interview, coming across as a likeable guy with none of the self-aggrandizing attitude of Mitt Romney or the volatility of Newt Gingrich. Santorum is a man of his convictions, although his consuming religious beliefs may alienate many moderates. Morgan even described Karen Santorum as her husband's "secret weapon" - a striking comparison to Michelle Obama in 2007.

Ultimately, it's unlikely that Santorum will win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidential election. He is restricted by his strict, misogynistic religious social agenda but while many may not agree with his policies, he remains a dark horse in the Republican race.

Getty
Show Hide image

After Article 50 is triggered, what happens next?

Theresa May says Article 50 will be triggered on 29 March. The UK must prepare for years, if not decades, of negotiating. 

Back in June, when Europe woke to the news of Brexit, the response was muted. “When I first emerged from my haze to go to the European Parliament there was a big sign saying ‘We will miss you’, which was sweet,” Labour MEP Seb Dance remembered at a European Parliament event in London. “The German car industry said we don’t want any disruption of trade.”

But according to Dance – best known for holding up a “He’s Lying” sign behind Nigel Farage’s head – the mood has hardened with the passing months.

The UK is seen as demanding. The Prime Minister’s repeated refusal to guarantee EU citizens’ rights is viewed as toxic. The German car manufacturers now say the EU is more important than British trade. “I am afraid that bonhomie has evaporated,” Dance said. 

On Wednesday 29 March the UK will trigger Article 50. Doing so will end our period of national soul-searching and begin the formal process of divorce. So what next?

The European Parliament will have its say

In the EU, just as in the UK, the European Parliament will not be the lead negotiator. But it is nevertheless very powerful, because MEPs can vote on the final Brexit deal, and wield, in effect, a veto.

The Parliament’s chief negotiator is Guy Verhofstadt, a committed European who has previously given Remoaners hope with a plan to offer them EU passports. Expect them to tune in en masse to watch when this idea is revived in April (it’s unlikely to succeed, but MEPs want to discuss the principle). 

After Article 50 is triggered, Dance expects MEPs to draw up a resolution setting out its red lines in the Brexit negotiations, and present this to the European Commission.

The European Commission will spearhead negotiations

Although the Parliament may provide the most drama, it is the European Commission, which manages the day-to-day business of the EU, which will lead negotiations. The EU’s chief negotiator is Michel Barnier. 

Barnier is a member of the pan-EU European People’s Party, like Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He has said of the negotiations: “We are ready. Keep calm and negotiate.”

This will be a “deal” of two halves

The Brexit divorce is expected to take 16 to 18 months from March (although this is simply guesswork), which could mean Britain officially Brexits at the start of 2019.

But here’s the thing. The divorce is likely to focus on settling up bills and – hopefully – agreeing a transitional arrangement. This is because the real deal that will shape Britain’s future outside the EU is the trade deal. And there’s no deadline on that. 

As Dance put it: “The duration of that trade agreement will exceed the life of the current Parliament, and might exceed the life of the next as well.”

The trade agreement may look a bit like Ceta

The European Parliament has just approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) with Canada, a mammoth trade deal which has taken eight years to negotiate. 

One of the main stumbling points in trade deals is agreeing on similar regulatory standards. The UK currently shares regulations with the rest of the UK, so this should speed up the process.

But another obstacle is that national or regional parliaments can vote against a trade deal. In October, the rebellious Belgian region of Wallonia nearly destroyed Ceta. An EU-UK deal would be far more politically sensitive. 

The only way is forward

Lawyers working for the campaign group The People’s Challenge have argued that it will legally be possible for the UK Parliament to revoke Article 50 if the choice is between a terrible deal and no deal at all. 

But other constitutional experts think this is highly unlikely to work – unless a penitent Britain can persuade the rest of the EU to agree to turn back the clock. 

Davor Jancic, who lectures on EU law at Queen Mary University of London, believes Article 50 is irrevocable. 

Jeff King, a professor of law at University College London, is also doubtful, but has this kernel of hope for all the Remainers out there:

“No EU law scholar has suggested that with the agreement of the other 27 member states you cannot allow a member state to withdraw its notice.”

Good luck chanting that at a march. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.