Every opinion piece you're about to read about the royal baby

In predictable fashion, anyone with a column to fill in the next week is going to write about the new royal arrival. Rafael Behr saves you the trouble of reading them.

It was a quiet news week and then a royal princess had a baby. Every columnist and commentator in the land will want a piece of the action. To save you some time, here is every opinion piece to be published in the coming days.

A moment of national joy to celebrate. Britain is champion country of the world

Patriotism by numbers with a passive aggressive hint that failure to be moved by a royal birth means there is something shrivelled and ugly about your soul.

This monarchist carnival proves that we are a Conservative country, which is a good thing

David Cameron spoke for us all when he said "congratulations." How dismal life must be for the tiny minority of joyless lefties shivering on the margins of our national identity.

This monarchist charade proves that we are a Conservative country, which is a bad thing

This is surely how Solzhenitsyn felt. We republicans are internal exiles and dissidents.

It just goes to show how class is dead

The Middletons are so middle class they even have “middle” in their name. What more proof do you need?

It just goes to show how class is alive and kicking

Oh Britain! How easily you are seduced into deference and feudalism.

This is the spawn of imperialism and don’t forget it

Hysterical rant about the evils of the British Establishment

Gotcha! Lefties hate babies – how dare Labour call itself compassionate

Gleeful denunciation of extreme republicans culminating in call for Ed Miliband to distance himself from a comment someone unconnected to the Labour party may have made on the internet.

He will be the Twitter King

Getting desperate now. What’s the social media angle?

He will not be the Twitter King

Oho, you all fell for the social media angle, but really this is a timeless thing that transcends faddish technology.

Leave the poor child and its parents alone

No-one should write about this anymore, apart from me and this, obviously.

 

 

The Sun's royal boy-baby frontpage. Photograph: Getty Images

Rafael Behr is political columnist at the Guardian and former political editor of the New Statesman

Photo: Getty
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Here's what Theresa May could say to save the Brexit talks

The best option would be to invent a time machine, but unfortunately that's not on the table. 

One of my favourite types of joke is the logical impossibility: a statement that seems plausible but, on closer examination, is simply impossible and contradictory. “If you break both legs, don’t come running to me” is one. The most famous concerns a hapless tourist popping into a pub to ask for directions to London, or Manchester, or Belfast or wherever. “Well,” the barman replies, “I wouldn’t have started from here.”

That’s the trouble, too, with assessing what the government should do next in its approach to the Brexit talks: I wouldn’t have started from here.

I wouldn’t have started from a transient Leave campaign that offered a series of promises that can’t be reconciled with one another, but that’s the nature of a referendum in which the government isn’t supporting the change proposition. It’s always in the interest of the change proposition to be at best flexible and at worst outright disregarding of the truth.

Britain would be better off if it were leaving the European Union after a vote in which a pro-Brexit government had already had to prepare a white paper and an exit strategy before seeking popular consent. Now the government is tasked with negotiating the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union with a mandate that is contradictory and unclear. (Take immigration. It’s clear that a majority of people who voted to leave want control over Britain’s borders. But it’s also clear that a minority did not and if you take that minority away, there’s no majority for a Leave vote.

Does that then mean that the “democratic” option is a Brexit that prioritises minimising economic harm at the cost of continuing free movement of people? That option might command more support than the 52 per cent that Leave got but it also runs roughshod over the concerns that really drove Britain’s Leave vote.

You wouldn’t, having had a referendum in inauspicious circumstances, have a government that neglected to make a big and genuinely generous offer on the rights of the three million citizens of the European Union currently living in the United Kingdom.

In fact the government would have immediately done all it could to show that it wanted to approach exit in a constructive and co-operative manner. Why? Because the more difficult it looks like the departing nation is going to be, the greater the incentive the remaining nations of the European Union have to insist that you leave via Article 50. Why? Because the Article 50 process is designed to reduce the leverage of the departing state through its strict timetable. Its architect, British diplomat John Kerr, envisaged it being used after an increasingly authoritarian state on the bloc’s eastern periphery found its voting rights suspended and quit “in high dudgeon”.

The strict timeframe also hurts the European Union, as it increases the chances of an unsatisfactory or incomplete deal. The only incentive to use it is if the departing nation is going to behave in a unconstructive way.

Then if you were going to have to exit via the Article 50 process, you’d wait until the elections in France and Germany were over, and restructure Whitehall and the rest of the British state so it was fit to face the challenges of Brexit. And you wouldn’t behave so shabbily towards the heads of the devolved administrations that Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP and Carwyn Jones of the Welsh Labour Party have not become political allies.

So having neglected to do all of that, it’s hard to say: here’s what Theresa May should say in Florence, short of inventing time travel and starting the whole process again from scratch.

What she could do, though, is show flexibility on the question of British contributions to the European budget after we leave, and present a serious solution to the problem of how you ensure that the rights of three million EU citizens living in Britain have a legal backdrop that can’t simply be unpicked by 325 MPs in the House of Commons, and show some engagement in the question of what happens to the Irish border after Brexit.

There are solutions to all of these problems – but the trouble is that all of them are unacceptable to at least part of the Conservative Party. A reminder that, as far as the trouble with Brexit goes, Theresa May is the name of the monster – not the doctor. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.