Are the Leave ultras slowly losing control of Brexit?

Businesses are warning that a no deal exit from the EU would lead to UK job losses, closures and food rotting at ports.


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Has the ground shifted from under the Brexiteers’ feet? Pro-European Conservatives certainly think so.

Business is starting to make its objections and desires heard publicly, with Jaguar Land Rover the latest major employer to say that the wrong Brexit means job losses and business closures. The British Retail Consortium has this morning warned that exit without a deal would lead to to food rotting at ports and devastation for small retailers.

The fraught parliamentary arithmetic, as well as the economic consequences of a drastic breach from the European Union, is also sharply limiting the ultras' ability to shape the final destination.

That's the backdrop to tomorrow's summit at Chequers and Theresa May's new customs plan: a facilitated customs partnership, her supposed third way between her proposal for a customs partnership and the preferred model of Sajid Javid and the Cabinet's Brexiteers: “maximum facilitation”. Under the proposal, the United Kingdom would collect tariffs on the behalf of the EU and hand them back but would have the ability to set its own tariffs for the rest of the world.

It's a typical May compromise: she gets what she wants and her critics get the word “facilitated” in the title somewhere.

It comes back to the mystery of May, the subject of my column this week: is she blundering from crisis to crisis or is she slowly but surely outplaying the Brexiteers? Or both?

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.