Sir Ivan Rogers stepped down from his role of the UK's Ambassador to the EU, criticising the government's "muddled thinking" over Brexit, then resigned from the civil service altogether a few days later. His resignation letter is available here in full. What followed was seemingly much muddled thinking from both sides over what influence Rogers had over Brexit and whether or not this was a good thing. Rogers worked with Cameron to negotiate the "In" vote reform package, and apparently quit due to the Prime Minister and the wider governments stance of avoiding hard truths. Arch-Brexiteers hailed the development as a victory, seeing Rogers as a negative Nancy of sorts, whilst others spoke to his pragmatism and the need for realism in the Brexit process. I don't know anything about the guy, but the way the prominent charcters on both sides leapt to a particular narrative was interesting. Anyway, Rogers has now been replaced by ex-EU ambassador to Moscow and Western Europe Sir Tim Barrow, who is said by ministers to be a "pragmatic problem solver" who is prepared to give the "unvarnished truth" but also to offer solutions.
The only other marginally important thing that happened was Theresa May's interview on Sky News yesterday morning, in which we once again learned very little. John Rentoul ran with "How to use lots of words and say absolutely nothing, by Theresa May." Richard North, on the other hand picked up on some detail in the PM's words, in particular the line that she wanted "the best possible deal for trading with and operating within the Single European Market". Taking these words very literally, this seems like an admission that we are aiming to remain a full participant of the SM, whilst May has repeatedly inferred we will be exiting the customs union or will significantly change how we interact with it. This sounds very much like an EEA style route. The media for some reason is now utterly convinced that we are leaving the SM and that the government just won't admit it, the details of the PM's words however suggest otherwise.
This brings me onto a very interesting shift in the general Brexit-debate landscape. Ian Dunt, a writer at Politics.co.uk and a prolific Brexiteer antagoniser on Twitter wrote an article last week asking for remainers and Liberal Leavers to "bury the hatchet" and unite. The responses to the article, the tweet about it and his olive branch approach have been fascinating.
The issue is that many remainers are pretty much suggesting that the EEA/EFTA route is the best option because it would allow an easy re-entry back into the EU in the future, which is causing parts of the Leave base to double down and strengthen their position. Herein lies the issue, the remainers extending the olive branch appear to be hoping to use the Liberal Leavers - who are leavers first and foremost - as a way to stop Brexit entirely, and are not even being shy about it. As Ben Kelly puts it: "No one wants to accept an olive branch they will later be beaten with." Liam Blizard on the other hand, writes that there needs to be a compromise on both sides for this partnership to work.
This isn't happening just within the blogosphere. We now have prominent leave figures such as Michael Gove switching their position from being in favour of a transitional arrangement to being totally against it. Across the board, the sentiment of the public-eye leavers has noticably strengthened, as a reaction to the fear that any remain influence in the process is only to stop the process altogether. We saw this with the response to Sir Rogers' resignation.
It seems that the only way to reconcile this partnership of the moderates would be for the olive-branch remainers to fully accept that we will be leaving the EU and not trying to get back in, and for the Liberal Leavers to perhaps accept that something like the EEA/EFTA solution might be more like a final destination than originally hoped. If you don't find yourself in either of these camps though, which is most people, none of this would be acceptable. Blogger Another48percenter concludes that the partnership won't work simply because the good-willed overlap between both sides isn't big enough. In fact, it is probably getting smaller. Leavers are hardening their demands, and some remainers are begining to take the "if it's gonna blow up, let's make it blow up big" approach. It is unfortunately begining to feel as if the room for friendly and productive teamwork bewteen both sides is shrinking, which feels bad for everybody.
Anyway, it's less than 3 months until A50 is meant to be triggered. Between now and then, anything could happen.