The natural relief that Brexit’s Becher’s Brook has been negotiated at the first time of asking must be tempered by the reality that, just as is the case at Aintree, many daunting obstacles lie ahead. Many of today’s protagonists will not even reach Becher’s Brook to jump it, as winners must, a second time — and it would take Aintree’s sharpest bookie to predict whether or not British prime minister Theresa May will still be in the saddle when the grey gelding Soft Brexit faces Becher’s before — if — it turns into the home straight.
It seems certain though that Ms May will face baying-at-the-moon criticism and charges of betrayal of “the will of the people” from her Brextremist colleagues who imagine the British tail should have wagged the European Union dog. She will be characterised as a Home Counties quisling who, as Jacob Rees Mogg will helpfully point out irrespective of the facts, condemned her country to “vassalage” — vocabulary only a person with a very sheltered, one-eyed understanding of British history would dare use.
They will also assert she could have got a better deal, ignoring the statement from EC president Jean-Claude Juncker that “those who think that, by rejecting the deal, they would get a better deal, will be disappointed”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sang the same song:
Those statements speak to the core reality of what is possible or not in a Brexit deal — the power imbalance between the negotiators means one side will dominate and can insist that the rules of the club be followed — a predictable enough path which Brexiteers, no strangers to fake campaigning, will frame as the EU being unnecessaryily vengeful towards a country “brave” enough to “take back control”.
There was a point in every Grand National when that great commentator Peter O’Sullevan announced that the horses had turned into the country for a second time. We are at that point with Brexit but the race will be far longer than Liverpool’s hard 4 miles and 514 yards. Endurance is required.