Following his resignation as Brexit Secretary, David Davis has rounded on those who claimed that he had no alternative proposal of his own, and he took to the pages of the Sunday Times (paywall) to refute the claim and outline his own alternative. Heâ€™s certainly managed to demonstrate that he does indeed have an alternative plan, so in that sense, he wins the argument. The question, though, is whether his alternative plan is a realistic and workable one.
As ever, the answer depends on the assumptions that we make. His â€˜planâ€™ basically amounted to conceding nothing, demanding the right to cherry-pick, and waiting for the EU27 to blink first. It was, in essence, based on the idea that faced with complete intransigence from the UK side, the EU would eventually back down and start to dismantle the single market and customs union in order to allow the UK to pick the bits it wanted whilst rejecting the rest. And underlying that are two assumptions that the Brexiteers have been making from the outset â€“ â€˜they need us more than we need themâ€™; and the whole EU was only ever about trade and commerce.
For those who really believe that, there was never any need to negotiate anything (which provides, in a manner of speaking, another explanation for Davisâ€™ apparent complete lack of activity), because the EU27 would eventually come to accept the UK position and tear up its carefully honed rulebook. Even now, as the eleventh hour approaches, there are still plenty of Brexiteers willing to bet the entire country on their firm conviction that the EU27 are just bluffing, and will roll over eventually. There is, for them, no need for any sort of Plan B, because Plan A is an absolute cert in their world of blind faith.
Itâ€™s a blind faith which has held the government and prime minister prisoner for two years, locked into a position from which theyâ€™ve been unwilling to move. And itâ€™s the sort of blind faith which has its true believers screaming about heresy and betrayal when anyone dares to suggest that the world might not be as they believe and want it to be. It also underlines the extent to which Brexit is more akin to religious cult than a rational policy for many of its adherents.