The ruling by the Supreme Court to insist that Parliament votes on the decision to trigger Article 50 for the UK has allowed the Government to look strong again.
Back in November, when it lost the case in the High Court, the Government seemed ill-prepared and the result looked highly damaging to the whole approach to Brexit. It illustrated a Government with no plan and no way forward.
The Supreme Court’s decision was not, however, a surprise. The Government seems to have used the intervening months wisely to prepare itself. This was proved by David Davis’s appearance in the House of Commons later the same morning giving an assured performance and outlining what the Government’s approach would be. A string of Ministers and prominent Conservatives were on hand to talk to the media and offer their views across Twitter explaining clearly what the Government was up to. The Brexit Bill itself is ready for publication imminently.
So the situation now for the Government couldn’t be more different. The Prime Minister has only recently delivered a major speech confirming what many had already thought, that membership of the Single Market cannot be delivered alongside the control of borders. May’s interpretation of the referendum outcome was that border control, in other words immigration, trumps all else.
The Government has now also decided to look very clearly to the US for an early trade deal. Encouraged by the new President, the Government believes that deals with the US as well as Australian, New Zealand and Canada, amongst others, should be the priority post Brexit.
They are giving opponents of Brexit nowhere to go. No-one is seriously contending the referendum outcome, a White Paper will provide the opportunity to shape what Brexit looks like and the Bill will give Parliament its say. Opponents look increasingly divided or side-lined.
There is though one group that looks organised and determined to have their say – the SNP. There is no doubt that when the Bill comes before Parliament, it will be heavily scrutinised. The Lib Dems will have a go as will Labour but the heart of the action will be the SNP.
The real danger is not that Article 50 will not be triggered, it will. The danger is that the stated date of doing so by the end of March becomes much more problematic to achieve. To fail to hit this date would be a major dent in Mrs May’s armour.
Part of the Supreme Court decision was that the UK government was not legally bound to take the views of the Scottish Parliament or the other devolved administrations into account over triggering Article 50.
This leaves the SNP needing to make a strong show in the Westminster Parliament. It also increases the prospect of another Scottish independence referendum.
So the clouds are gathering and uncertainly is abound.
But the politics, so far, are playing out well for the Prime Minister. Whether the economics will is much less certain. Mrs May has though been helped in this by the doom-mongers who predicted an instant economic collapse and the need for an emergency budget in the event of a Brexit vote. Whilst some of the more upbeat recent messages can be questioned, the collapse has not happened. This has brought Mrs May some very welcome time to decide on her strategy and means that confidence in the post Brexit future is just that little bit higher.
All the decisions around Brexit carry risk but as things stand, Mrs May is giving a very good impression of being firmly in charge. It’s a far cry from the position back in November.
What the Government also needs to do now is to s turn their attentions to issues other than Brexit. Recent headlines over the NHS and the new budget allocations for schools have made far from happy reading.
The sign of a Government truly in control is the ability to juggle all these issues at once, continuing to smile and maintaining their popularity. If Mrs May can do that then put your money on a Conservative landslide in 2020.
First published by the Sussex Newspaper