The prime minister deserves no credit for avoiding a calamity that loomed so close because he had chosen to drive eagerly towards it
That it would be better to leave the European Union with a deal than without one has never been in doubt. Only irresponsible demagogues, delusional ideologues and maverick bluffers pretended that Britain should attempt to walk away from its most important strategic alliance with no partnership agreement. Sadly, Boris Johnson has played each of those roles. Through a combination of cynicism and recklessness, the prime minister took Britain to the brink of calamity, prepared to drop from a cliff edge and call it majestic flight. To what extent he was bluffing is a question that can now, thankfully, go unanswered because there is a deal.
The contents are not yet clear, and the proximity of the 31 December deadline leaves little time to absorb the character of the new arrangements, let alone scrutinise the detail. That is partly a function of Mr Johnson’s notorious tendency to equivocate, but it also reflects a certain tactical cunning. The prime minister does not want this deal to be examined. What can already be said with some certainty is that it prescribes an immediate downgrade for the UK economy. That is a function of leaving the single market and customs union, and those choices were baked into the negotiating mandate. Trade volumes will decrease. Supply chains will be disrupted. Jobs will be lost. Those are intrinsic features of the hard Brexit model mandated by Mr Johnson.