May secures soft Brexit mandate: Unhinged were outflanked

Even JK Rowling, that master of fantasy, would be reluctant to begin a novel called What Donald Did Next, or What Boris Did Next or, God forbid, a What Jacob Did Next as near rudderless unpredictability — or blind, regressive nativism — characterises their dangerous destabilising of Western democracy. Ms Rowling might, however, begin to consider the possibility of writing What Theresa Did Next.

The British prime minister’s achievement last Friday, when she persuaded her cabinet to support a soft Brexit, seems a victory for sober pragmatism and well-tested moderation.

It is also an accurate reflection of the very tight margin of the divorce vote. She may not have seen off the Brexit zealots — one may yet indulge their Eton-esque hubris and challenge her leadership — but they have been seen off and cannot recover their momentum without a coup that might set an entirely unpredictable set of dominoes toppling.

The Chequers deal is far from final or perfect but it is at least shaped by a sense of what is or might be possible. It is time for the EU’s negotiators to move a step closer to the kind of engagement that might square this tightening circle, because as things stood before May outflanked the unhinged, chaos loomed.

Realising that catastrophe may have been averted but that it is still a possibility should be motivation enough for those with the best of interests of Europe, and Britain, at heart to make best advantage of this opportunity.

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