Richard North, 25/06/2016  

Now that we are firmly on the path towards leaving the EU, to focus turns to the divorce settlement. But, as an indication of how unprepared we are, we have the pretender to the throne, Alexander (aka Boris) Johnson, still dickering about the application of Article 50, suggesting that it is not necessary to invoke it.

It really is not good enough to have such a basic matter unresolved at this stage. We were writing about it in 2012 and its application has long since been resolved, by the government and by two of the country's leading constitutional lawyers.

Yet still we're having Johnson, Redwood and sundry others arguing the toss – putting the entire negotiations at risk. After all, if these people can't even deal with the basics, there seems little chance of getting to grips with the more complex matters.

When the Article 50 issue has been so thoroughly aired and apparently resolved, and we're still having to revisit the same sterile arguments, over and over again, it is time to sound the alarm bells. Article 50 is the only lawful way to withdraw from the EU. These people need to accept the unarguable, and move on.

However, this controversy over this apparently minor technical point is but the visible steam on a seething cauldron as the Conservative Party breaks up into warring factions, each seeking to seize the prize of the leadership - and control of the renegotiation process.

That process itself will define the shape of post-exit Britain but itself has the potential to bring chaos and destruction to a level unimaginable in modern European politics. Yet, as the ship as it heads for the rocks, Captain Cameron has abandoned ship and madmen squabble over who holds the wheel. 

At the front - for the moment - is the ghastly Johnson making his bid for power, alongside his running-mate Michael Gove. Behind him are men (mostly men - I see no women emerging) whom you would cross the road to avoid. They have ideas so extreme and so devoid of reality that one can scarce believe that what they are pursuing is seriously intended.

These are men with almost autistic characters. They can face down truth with unwavering stares, refusing in any way to accept the consequences of their actions, as they focus manically on their chosen course. And in this case, they are not ruling out unilateral abrogation of the EU treaties - relying on Crown prerogative, which does not even need the assent of Parliament. They would drive us onto the rocks and applaud each other for their skill.

These are worrying times, more worrying than people can imagine - with a power vacuum at the centre which may not hold until October to allow an orderly transfer of power. The referendum has lifted the lid on that seething cauldron. What we see inside is not a pretty sight. It has the potential for much danger.

The referendum has been the cover for a coup. Vote Leave was never about winning the referendum. It was always about taking over the Conservative Party. That's why the Cummings-Elliott axis were happy to let Farage do the preening over the count. They were too busy executing their coup. Now, Cameron has been deposed and the plotters are storming the palace. Cummings is already behaving as if he was chief of staff at No 10. 

Corbyn's opposition in disarray, their leader a weak, empty man. With him in place, there is little Parliament can do to stop the zealots taking over. What the plotters can do, and have the potential to do, is not something any sane person would even want to imagine.

With little idea of what is really going on, we thus see some media - dominated by prattling girlies (of both sexes) - on about us being "out of the EU". We're not, and there's a long way to go. There is very little chance of achieving an orderly transition - if indeed that is possible - if the wrong people grab the wheel.

In place of that, we face the possibility of an "association" deal being negotiated. On offer will be a second-class status little different to that of Ukraine, effectively under the control of the EU. It will leave us, as Cameron so often warned, without any seats at any of the "top tables". The worst of all possible worlds.

In the absence of a coherent exit strategy - as Westminster descends into chaos - this option may seem increasingly attractive to many. It will be hailed as a way of reimposing order. But it puts us in the position of supplicants as the siren calls for order and certainty swell in volume. Thus will be the choice - chaos or subjugation, with the idea of freedom a distant memory.

That points the way to a different coup, one being prepared for us in Brussels, with the pressure on to bounce us into early negotiations before anyone is ready. There awaiting us will be a "honey trap" - increasingly attractive compared with the chaos at the centre. We may be watching ourselves leap from a sizzling pan into a roaring fire.

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