By David Runciman and Catherine Carr

We try to cut through the Brexit fog and see what's really out there, from new deals to no deal. Plus we ask some bigger questions: What is the true role of lawyers in politics? Does the EU want regime change? And how will future historians explain this extraordinary period? With Helen Thompson, Chris Bickerton and Kenneth Armstrong.

Talking Points:

The concessions Theresa May secured made some difference, but if the fear on the Conservative side was about remaining “trapped,” the ways out remain limited.

There’s no exit unless the EU acts in “bad faith.”The good things that came out of this were attempts to provide a path forward that would make sure the backstop is never triggered.But the problem remains: ‘What happens if you wind up in the backstop?’Finding a way to unilaterally leave the backstop was probably an impossible task.There’s a major expectation management problem here.

If this were a free, anonymous vote, the deal would probably pass. But MP’s, particularly Labour MP’s aren’t going to expend political capital on a deal that won’t pass.

There has to be a tippling point. The Cox letter killed the chances of that happening.Plus, no one believed that this was the last chance, in part because Juncker said there could be an extension.

Politics and law keep clashing into each other.

What should the role of the attorney general be?Cox was both the negotiator and the person who had to turn around and say that that this was undoable.He once said that he cares more about his reputation as a barrister than as a politician.

No deal remains the default, and also the thing that Parliament will not accept.

The ERG thinks this deal is worse than staying in the EU.If no deal looms into view, the government will fall.Is the EU line hardening about the terms of an extension?

In 20-30 years time, will we understand what’s happening now?

Chris thinks that this shows that the British political system lacked the capacity to deliver on the referendum.Helen thinks how we frame this moment will depend on two things: what happens to the EU and what happens to the UK as a multinational state.It’s about structural forces, but it’s also about contingencies.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Kenneth’s blog on legal clarificationsGeoffrey Cox’s letterThat Cox quote

Further Learning:

The last time we talked about BrexitHelen on the EUThe Fate of Theresa May

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:

Heart UK