The agreement of the 27 remaining EU member states to moving on to the next stage of the Brexit negotiations puts the UK “well on the road” to Brexit, Theresa May has said.
The deal agrees the terms of a transition period, during which there will be free movement of people and European Court of Justice jurisdiction.
This might upset some hard Brexiteers who want to leave fast, but it reflects the fact that the two-year timescale for EU departure under Article 50 is too short.
It is much more important that the ultimate destination is a good one than that we quit quickly.
This week’s House of Commons defeat for the government showed how fragile it is, and how – more than ever – the DUP and Tories need to stick closely together to get the withdrawal process as far down the road as possible before there is another general election.
There needs to be realism about the fact that the hardest imaginable Brexit is now going to be hard to deliver. The ambiguous EU-UK deal of December 8 showed that from a unionist perspective it is better to have a slightly softer UK-wide Brexit than a purist version that causes such a headache here that London is tempted to treat NI differently, and edge towards a border in the Irish Sea.
That temptation was clear 10 days ago. The DUP veto worked, but even the revised wording was so full of comfort to Dublin and so contradictory as to be alarming.