To: Theresa May
From: Permanent secretary,
Department for Exiting the EU
Prime Minister, you asked for thoughts on the options for Brexit negotiations following the election.
Option 1. Nothing-has-changed Brexit: Emboldened by your near majority level of support, a mandate from 42.4 per cent of the country and with at least 22 per cent of your own MPs behind you, you stick to your guns, intimidating opponents with your "bloody difficult woman" gaze. Backed by Northern Ireland Unionists you can claim to speak for half the four home nations -- that cannot fail to impress the EU team. Britain is best with its back to the wall, so convince them this is the position into which you have so skillfully manoeuvred us. Faced with such resolve, the EU crumbles. No surrender.
Advantages: Stable, strong, Churchillian. Daily Mail happy.
Disadvantages: Doomed to fail. Economic obliteration. No parliamentary majority for this.
Option 2. Boris Brexit: The foreign secretary has submitted his own strategy. In essence, you hand the negotiations to him. Our crack British negotiators lull the lazy Europeans into a false sense of security by seeming to have no real plan and cunningly appearing like a bunch of public schoolboys wittily bluffing their way through an interview process. But nil desperandum. At the last minute, when the French have clocked off early and the Spanish and Italians are on siesta, we pull a swifty, showing that actually Britain had been up swotting all night, and outmanoeuvre them with our mastery of the details.
Advantages: Still working on this.
Disadvantages: See appendices 1, 2, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6a, 6b.
Option 3. Soft Brexit (something has changed): The UK remains in the customs union, which makes the movement of traded goods much simpler. One downside is that Britain does not get the right to set its own trade policy -- one of the main arguments for Brexit -- as it will remain with Brussels. This can be turned into a super-soft strategy with bucketloads of cash, promises on immigrants and a pledge to rejoin all denunciations of Donald Trump.
Advantages: Smoother trade, no hard border with Ireland. No need for Liam Fox or his new trade ministry.
Disadvantages: Accepting a trade policy negotiated by an organisation over which you have no say might be seen as cutting British influence. Bit of a manifesto U-turn. No parliamentary majority for this.
Option 4. Ultrasoft Brexit (quite a lot has changed): Remain a member of the European Economic Area along with Norway, Iceland, etc. Offers certainty to business and retains membership of the single market. Would mean accepting free movement of people and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice but with no influence on EU policy. Britain would, in essence, be a vassal state of the EU.
Advantages: Effectively hands government of UK to Angela Merkel, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Emmanuel Macron. Saves British economy. If we behave, we may be allowed to reapply for full EU membership after Serbia.
Disadvantages: Raises question of why we are bothering to leave. Immigrants still coming, Conservative party destroyed (this could go in either column). No parliamentary majority for this. Effectively hands government of UK to Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.
Option 5. No Brexit: Give it up. Call a second referendum. Stay in the EU.
Advantages: Saves economy. In line with your previous remain view, so more an O-turn than a U-turn.
Disadvantages: Politically tricky. Not consistent with Daily Mail "crush the saboteurs" policy. Tories torn apart. International laughing stock. No parliamentary majority for this.
There is one final option: Let Labour take over. Jeremy Corbyn believes in a totally different form of Brexit apart from the bits about leaving the EU and the single market. Labour will trade concessions on free movement for single market access but only in return for guarantees that it will not help the City or capitalism in general.
Advantages: Unlikely to be any worse at this than you. It's no longer your problem. Tory unity saved.
Disadvantages: Labour in power. No parliamentary majority for this.