In the tale of the emperorâ€™s new suit, it was the little child who told the truth which everybody else could see but were afraid to admit â€“ there was no new suit. The child merely said what he saw; he wasnâ€™t sophisticated enough to see the beauty, or marvel at the colours and pattern of the clothes. Itâ€™s surely no surprise then that it was Trump who immediately saw through the White Paper crafted from invisible threads with which the Prime Minister has attempted to clothe herself since the Chequers meeting last week.
According to May and her courtiers (whose inability to see the beauty in front of them, just as in the tale by Andersen, would only prove them to be either stupid or unfit for high office in the eyes of their leader), the pattern woven into the White Paper is so intricate and perfect that it can allow the UK both to be part of a system where trade deals are common to all members and at the same time be able to go off and negotiate its own trade deals across the world. But someone as immune to any accusation of stupidity and unfitness for office as a small child (or Donald Trump) has no reason to hold back. Itâ€™s not often that Iâ€™d put the words truth and Trump into a single sentence, but in pointing out that tying a country into EU rules is incompatible with negotiating a different set of rules with someone else, he is only stating the blindingly obvious.
Of course, Mayâ€™s courtiers â€“ like the emperorâ€™s â€“ already know this but must go along with the empress for the time being, at least until everyone else understands the truth. That wonâ€™t be long coming, I suspect; that particular part of the white paper wonâ€™t survive first contact with Barnier in the negotiating rooms of Brussels. There can only be two possible outcomes from that; a messy and abrupt â€˜no-dealâ€™ departure from the EU, or further moves towards replicating the Norway model around which May is slowly orbiting. Who knows which way sheâ€™ll jump? Iâ€™m unsure whether she really believes that stockpiling corned beef is going to scare the EU27 into making concessions, or whether itâ€™s really an attempt to scare the leavers into capitulation. The problem is that Iâ€™m not entirely sure that she knows either â€“ and nor am I sure that sheâ€™ll survive long enough to come to a decision.