Richard North, 26/03/2017  

Slowly, the pieces are falling into place, so much so that Booker in this week's column, offering two Brexit-related stories, one on those dangerous Ultras and the other on the possible effects of Brexit on Formula One (pictured).

Starting the first story, he reflects that when future historians come to analyse how Britain chose to leave the EU, nothing may intrigue them more than the way Theresa May was influenced by a small, well-organised group of Tory backbenchers, including Michael Gove, Iain Duncan-Smith, Owen Paterson and Steve Baker.

It was, he says, these "Ultra-Brexiteers" making up the "European Research Group" who persuaded her that we should leave the single market, the customs union and the European Economic Area, to go instead for a unique "free-trade deal". And if we do not get what we want, we can just walk away, in the belief that "no deal is better than a bad deal".

Two weeks ago, under the heading "The hidden disaster in Mrs May's Brexit plan", Booker warned that this could lead to consequences of which the Ultras seem wholly unaware. Last week this was confirmed by Michel Barnier, the head of the EU's own negotiating team.

He not only emphasised that the talks could not even begin without Britain agreeing to pay over the years ahead up to £60 billion for ongoing financial commitments we have already agreed to.

He then spelled out the consequences of leaving the electronically-based system which currently allows 12,000 British trucks a day to enter the rest of the EU with no delays. As Barnier put it, we would "ineluctably" be faced with a whole thicket of "binding border controls" which would soon lead to "queues of trucks at Dover".

In fact Barnier tactfully did not give the full picture here, by suggesting that this might only happen if we walked away to rely just on "WTO rules". EU law is clear that there can be no "free trade deal" which would allow us to remain in that electronic system which spares us border controls, because this is only open to countries in the EU and the European Economic Area we have decided to leave.

In other words, those who talked Mrs May into taking this course don't begin to realise the scale of what this would lead us to. But they have somehow kidded themselves into believing that this is what 52 percent of the British people voted for.

The irony is that there is no argument we have heard more often over the years than that what we were told we were joining back in 1973 was just a "Common Market", a trading arrangement.

That is what people wanted to go back to, without all the political stuff that came later. If it had been honestly explained last summer that leaving the EU would mean not just saying goodbye to all the political stuff but also the sight of trucks backing up from Dover to London, and thousands of exporters finding it impossible to continue trading with the EU at all, a hefty majority would have voted to Remain.

But that was not what the Vote Leave campaign (now transformed into the European Research Group) ever told us. Because, as their deliberately vague and lamentably ill-informed efforts last summer showed, they had very little idea of what they were talking about.

And here's the rub. Booker – like many of us – has found that many who voted to leave the EU had not done so because they had been convinced by the childishly dodgy arguments put forward by Vote Leave (such as that ludicrous slogan on the bus about giving £350 million a week to the NHS).

Rather, they had done so for their own more or less well informed reasons. But it is now these self-same Ultras who have Mrs May's ear as she heads off this week to trigger Article 50. When those future historians come to analyse the story, it is not only their role which will intrigue them. They will, concludes Booker in this article, also be chronicling the catastrophic shambles that was the result.

This, though, is only part one. In his second Brexit-related story, asks: "Will Brexit bring spell doom for Britain's F1 success story?"

As a new Formula One season opens today in Australia, he writes, another of the countless problems Theresa May's advisers won't have told her about is the devastating effect their Brexit strategy is likely to have not just on Formula One itself but on one of Britain's world-beating industries.

Not everyone may be aware just what a dominant position Britain enjoys in motor racing. Seven of the ten teams currently competing in Formula One (including Mercedes) are based in England. Since 2005 all but one of the world champions has driven a car designed, engineered and built in this country.

Each team employs hundreds of highly-skilled workers and 41,500 other businesses depend on them. The whole industry earns for Britain £9 billion a year. But what will happen when we leave the customs union?

This season, six Grands Prix are on the continent, each requiring the speediest transfer from the UK of 45 HGVs, carrying cars, spares and a mass of equipment. The moment we are excluded from the electronic system which allows them to travel without delays, they will face border controls.

For occasions when there is only a week between back-to-back Grands Prix, such time-consuming procedures will make these transfers barely possible. For the trucks which carry food to entertain sponsors at lavish "hospitality" events it will be even worse.

Under the law, they will have to divert to an EU Border Inspection Post, to wait perhaps for days. The F1 teams may not yet have woken up to the problems Mrs May is choosing to land them with. But they may have reluctantly to conclude that one of Britain's most successful industries will have to leave these shores.

Once more, of course, neither of these stories are news to readers, although it was The Times which broke the story on the behaviour of the Tory "Ultras" and their grip on Mrs May.

Predictably, in the hands of Booker, this attracts the litany of adverse comments on the on-line versions. Mostly, though, these seems to be largely the same people as last week and the week before – tortured souls who have nothing better else to do with their time than vent their spleens in response to Booker not telling them what they want to hear.

Yet. after Booker wrote his piece which referred to the effect of Brexit on horse racing, a number of other newspapers followed in his wake. It will be interesting to see whether others follow his F1 story and whether they are able to make a decent fist of it.

By mid-week, when Mrs May despatches her Article 50 notification, the focus will be on what she has said to the "colleagues" which, we understand is merely to be a rehash of her twelve-points speech. And if that is the case, the fun won't really start until the end of next month, when we get the response.

In the meantime, all we can do is analyse and report on the events, as we see them – and largely ignore the adverse comments. Largely, they are repetitious to the point of tedium, so that is no great hardship. By now, we've seen it all before.

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