Theresa May’s five tests for the UK’s post-Brexit EU relationship tell us... not a lot. Again.

Time is running out for the government to find a coherent set of demands for Brexit.

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This Groundhog Day remake's a bit wonkish, isn't it? There's a blizzard coming and we wake up to a radio message promising a major speech on Brexit from Theresa May, and no sight of Andie MacDowell anywhere.

Thanks to the snow, the latest in May's series will be delivered in London not Newcastle, and thanks to the demands of balancing opinion in the Conservative Party, the speech will say... not a lot, at least if the pre-released extracts are any guide.

The PM will set out five tests for the final relationship: it must respect the referendum result, it must be a lasting accord, it must protect jobs and security, it must be “consistent with the type of country we want to be as we leave: a modern, open, outward-looking, tolerant European democracy”, and fifth it must strengthen “our union of our nations and our people”.

It's all very reminiscent of Gordon Brown's five tests for whether or not the United Kingdom should join the Euro: the beauty is that you can see what you want in them. In both cases, the tests are written with one eye on the policy and the other on the internal politics of the respective parties.

But there are two crucial differences: the first is that there was no deadline at which point the United Kingdom would have suffered a no-deal exit if we didn't join the Euro. The second is that Brown knew what he wanted out of his five tests: for Britain not to join the Euro. Theresa May's government doesn't have a coherent set of demands as far as Brexit goes and time is running out, fast, for her to find some.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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