Controversial briefings to the press by senior government figures reflect a change in the zeitgeist
The short, disastrous premiership of Liz Truss is beginning to look like the endpoint of a political trajectory that began with the Brexit referendum in 2016. The spectacular detonation of Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget by unimpressed markets was the moment when ideology met reality, and the Conservative party’s sovereigntist delusions were finally tested to destruction. In its aftermath, the high tide of Brexit has gone out, and a slow voyage back to economic sanity at last appears to be under way.
On Monday, Ms Truss’s successor, Rishi Sunak, was obliged to spend much of his visit to the CBI conference in Birmingham denying suggestions that the government was hoping to pivot to a closer Swiss-style relationship with the European Union. Switzerland enjoys significant and profitable access to the single market, and participates in EU research and education programmes, while making payments to the EU and aligning with its law. According to a Sunday Times report, government figures have privately discussed the possibility of just such a relationship for Britain. “Let me be unequivocal about this,” Mr Sunak countered robustly. “Under my leadership, the United Kingdom will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws … I voted for Brexit. I believe in Brexit and I know that Brexit can deliver.”