As parents, up and down the country know, this is the time when children come home from school for the holidays with their end of term report. It seems timely then to review the performance of our political leaders as they head for the beach, or the mountains in some cases, for some rest and relaxation.
And their report, specifically with respect to Brexit, makes grim reading.
Just over a year on from the referendum on one of the most important questions ever put to the British people, the promises of the Vote Leave campaign, such as the £350 million to the NHS instead of Brussels, have been quietly broken.
It also seems that the claim that the EU can ‘whistle’ for any large divorce settlement are evaporating as the Government belatedly realises that any deal on its trading relationship will be impossible without the settlement of dues.
And if a deal is eventually done, it seems for once Tony Blair is right. No EU leader in their right mind will sign up to a settlement that offers anything like the benefits of the access to the single market that the UK enjoys today. Yet anything less, means fewer jobs, less wealth and more hardship, sadly for many of those who voted to leave in the first place.
In addition, it seems increasingly obvious that it will be impossible to square the circle of withdrawal from the single market and customs union with a frictionless border between north and south in Ireland, threatening the hard-won peace in that previously troubled part of the United Kingdom.
It’s also worth noting that twelve months on from the referendum, all those economic indicators that briefly remained green are now blinking amber and even red in some cases. Certainly, British holiday makers heading abroad will find the euro or dollar they’ll exchange for their sterling costs considerably more.
Furthermore, business, which temporarily stayed its hand, is now increasingly jittery given the apparent confusion and weakness of the UK negotiating position. Foreign investment is stalling whilst companies from EasyJet to JP Morgan are setting up bases in the EU in the expectation that trade will be anything but frictionless between the UK and EU, post-Brexit.
Perhaps we should not be surprised with this. The EU has decades of experience in trade negotiations and has prepared thoroughly. On the other side, the UK seems unsure and unclear about its position and no manner of chuckling and patriotic posturing can cover that up. No wonder Monsieur Barnier hears only the sound of the clock ticking than the whistling of some British politicians.
In fairness, the UK’s position could hardly be more difficult given the tumultuous politics of the early summer. Both main parties appear divided in every which way possible; a Prime Minister that has been weakened, probably terminally, by the folly of an unnecessary early election; and parliament on the kind of political knife edge not seen since the 1970s.
One year on, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow offered by Brexiteers looks like just that. It is a travesty that in the twelve months since the referendum, those who advocated strongest to leave the EU are no clearer in telling the people how best to achieve it in a way that delivers the benefits they promised.
Whilst laying on the beach or walking in the mountains, our political leaders need to reflect on the situation we find ourselves in and work out how they can personally rise to the biggest challenge this country has faced since at least WW2. Indeed, they need to think about how to put aside personal ambition and party differences to forge a path ahead which is guided only by the best interests of the country. They must also ground themselves in the reality of the situation rather than in some fantasy of a return to an imperial Britain of yesteryear.
If they don’t, this generation, let alone those to come, won’t forgive them… and who knows where that will lead.