Don’t let Sir Humphrey run Brexit

When Philip Hammond told the Treasury Select Committee he supported a transitional deal with the EU, he noted that his opinion is the “universal view among civil servants on both sides of the English Channel.” Why does that make him think it’s a good idea?

Cheerleaders for a transitional deal claim it’s essential to avoid economic instability. But the public pretext for a policy and the motive for it aren’t always the same thing.

The real reason the mandarinate – along with the rest of our Europhile establishment – backs a transitional deal is that it could very easily turn into a permanent arrangement.

There’s no genuine justification for a stopgap. Because Britain is starting from the position of total regulatory equivalence with the EU, sorting out a new trade deal needn’t be so complex that it can’t be done in two years.

So the imperative should be to get on with it. Brussels should know we’re not prepared to wait forever.

Whitehall has always opposed Brexit. If we let officialdom dictate how the negotiations are run, we’ll never leave. This is no time for ministers to go native.