Britain’s longest-running political drama could be extended

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

If you’re one of the 17.5 million voters who chose to leave the EU in 2016, then you’re about to have your patience tested...again. It could be five years after the vote before the UK actually cuts ties completely with the European Union.

Brexit is starting to feel like a long-running reality show - 'Big Bother' might be a suitable title. Last night, it was if Theresa May was on ‘Brex Factor’. She’d made it through to Judges’ Houses and was being asked to sing for her future on the show.

Thing is, the judges didn’t hear any new tracks, just a cover of that timeless classic: ‘Progress has been made’. She did add her own twist by inserting a new lyric, written by herself, saying she was “willing to consider” extending the transition period. Backstage, that’s what we’re told she said anyway.

It’s the audience back home that matters and many won’t like what they heard at all. Extending the transition period by another year to 2021 means no Brexit for five years after the referendum.

Voters usually have the satisfaction of being able to have their say and see the result almost instantly. That’s how it works on the real X Factor.

Theresa May and her party are not singing from the same hymn sheet. Credit: AP

Extending the Brexit implementation period would mean the UK staying under EU control, having to accept free movement, paying the bills Brussels demands, following the rules and all without a say.

In exchange, the Prime Minister would be able to delay Brexit and buy more time for negotiations on the tricky Irish border question and a future trade deal. The ‘backstop’ has and continues to be the one main stumbling block. Rows over this Irish border issue meant a draft deal done last week was scrapped at the last moment.

No wonder there are calls to cancel the show. The problem is that no one, not even her critics, seem to have dreamt up a new format which would appeal to all viewers. A Canada-style free trade deal with the EU would also break up the United Kingdom in Downing Street’s opinion, because Northern Ireland would have to be treated differently and stay in the customs union and single market to avoid a hard border between a third country and the EU.

Talks will resume, deliberations between the leaders will continue, but it all leaves Theresa May still singing for her supper and facing calls for her eviction.