Now that the single market and the customs union (in its current trade-deal restricting form) are out of the question, just what are the Europhiles going to moan about? One half-expected Jeremy Corbyn to start today by earnestly inquiring if the Prime Minister will keep the glorious EU flag on our driving licenses and make sure butchers don’t start selling meat in pounds and ounces to the carnivorous, Brexit-voting xenophobes of the nation. It’s a sweet irony that arch-Remainers are now in the position of nitpicking about irrelevant minutiae of the European project, a criticism traditionally reserved for veteran Eurosceptics.
In the chamber today it quickly became clear that Jez, bless him, doesn’t seem to have quite cottoned on to the implications of the PM’s speech, and so instead decided to continue his established line of questioning. “Last year the Prime Minister said that leaving the single market could make trade deals “considerably harder”” he moaned. “The Chancellor said after the referendum that to lose single market access would be “catastrophic””, he cried. Getting desperate he wailed at Theresa May about the need for “frictionless access to the single market”, before finally demanding to know “will we have to pay for access to the market or not?” May and Hammond chuckled to themselves as they sat and watched the leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition valiantly flog a long dead horse.
This sort of meltdown is what happens when you force poor Jeremy to think on his feet: he malfunctions and naturally reverts to mindlessly regurgitating his standard single market moan-fest. The nadir came when the Labour leader attempted to crack a gag, “Restoring parliamentary democracy while sidelining Parliament”, Corbyn quipped, “is not so much the Iron Lady as the Irony Lady”. Dennis Skinner, surely an expert in the matter of poor political jokes, delivered his verdict in the form of a glum thousand mile stare into the middle distance. On the backbenches some Labour MPs momentarily stopped Googling “Museum Directorships near Me” and sighed in Corbyn’s general direction.