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Who has a Brexit Scooby Doo?

Danny Dyer called David Cameron a 't**t' for 'causing Brexit' Credit: ITV

If like the legend that is Danny Dyer on ITV last night, you think “no one has a ****ing clue what Brexit is”, this note won’t help.

Because it is going to tell you what continues to divide ministers about our future trading relationship with the EU, ahead of their supposedly historic meeting at Chequers in precisely a week.

And the point is that in most spectators the fire and fury of internal government arguments - about the arcana of how closely to align our business rules with the EU or what sort of border checks to introduce - induce torpor and bemusement.

Rarely has what threatens to bring down a government seemed so detached from the daily interests and needs of those they represent.

Do strap yourself in: here is what stirs up the cabinet with all the blood, sweat and tears of a religious war, while alienating the rest of us.

  • Where to draw the line between goods and services?
Theresa May has determination to deliver Brexit despite cabinet pressure Credit: PA

The point is that the PM has herded most of the cabinet, with the Brexiters kicking and screaming, to accept that after Brexit the UK will continue to follow EU regulations for goods and agriculture - in order to minimise economically damaging border checks.

But the distinction between goods and services is a fuzzy one.

Most sophisticated manufacturers make most of their money from after-sales service.

So there is a push from the Chancellor and Business Secretary to broaden her plan to - in effect - keep the UK in the EU’s single market for goods such that some or all services also fall inside this regulatory net.

The PM managed to convince her ministers to accept EU regulation after Brexit Credit: PA

Which some would say is putting the UK’s economic interests first, because 80% of the economy is services.

But the Brexiters argue, plausibly, there is little point leaving the EU if we don’t obtain the ability to set our own business rules for at least 80% of the economy.

This is a resigning issue for some members of the cabinet. Sorry if you are stifling a yawn.

  • How long before we are fully out of the EU?
Brexiters argue there is little point leaving the EU if we can't set our own business rules Credit: PA

You might conclude, on the basis of what you’ve just read, that we’ll always be intimately linked to the EU - that what the cabinet is really arguing about is degrees of separation. That is correct.

But the UK is not physically ready - in terms of new procedures and infrastructure for checking goods even minimally at borders - for any kind of Brexit end-state that is short of full membership of the single market and customs union. And the PM is crystal clear the UK will not remain full members of the single market or customs union.

Now, the taxman, HMRC, and port operators are deeply sceptical that the UK will be Brexit-ready even by the end of the transition or implementation period on 31 December 2020 that has been agreed with the EU.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond sees the last day of 2020 as a precipitous cliff edge for UK prosperity Credit: PA

So ministers like the Chancellor and Business Secretary see the last day of 2020 as a precipitous cliff edge for businesses and UK prosperity - and would want a gentler, longer glide path to whatever our long term trading and customs arrangements turn out to be.

Per contra, for the Brexiter foreign secretary, environment secretary and trade secretary, a gentler glide path to full Brexit looks like a airplane that will never land - it would be limbo, the UK never achieving true Brexit.

So again, this is a controversy dividing Brexiters and Remainers in the way that Luther’s 95 Theses cleaved Christendom - it is all about faith and interpretation of the scriptures.

Little wonder therefore that Dyer probably spoke for millions when asking whether anyone has a Scooby Doo about Brexit. Because for most of us, Brexit is not a matter of religion but of practical questions about what might actually minimise economic disruption and work for Britain.