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A quick thread on one key reason why the UK gvt is getting tangled up over Brexit:

You'll have noticed a pattern in gvt actions over the months: a decision is made, then shortcomings/gaps are found, so new decisions are made, which also don't quite work, and none of them provide blanket resolutions

This has been so both in the Art.50 negotiations themselves and in the no-deal contingency planning

A central reason for this piecemeal approach has been the absence of a master-idea; something to provide an overarching rationale and objective

It's not enough to say that the UK is leaving the EU - you also have to have a purpose in so doing

If you don't have that - and the UK doesn't, certainly in the sense of a settled consensus across gvt - then it's very much harder to do anything

'red lines' should exist as functions of that purpose, mutually-reinforcing each other in advancing one's interests and defending core principles

Instead, they become just a list of 'things we variously don't want', with gaps & inconsistencies

With an objective, you can resolve many specific problems by working from first principles to generate consistent action.

Instead, sticking plasters are applied w/o much thought as to knock-on consequences

With a clear purpose, it is easier to identify problems with solutions and to know what the internally-consistent solution might be.

instead, we get stuck at the point of "I don't like it", which doesn't provide a constructive pathway forward

This is the reason that the EU gets frustrated by the UK: the latter says it's not happy, but can't express what it wants instead

It's also the reason international comment is so bemused by Brexit: there's no obvious purpose to it all

Evidently, this isn't the only factor at play, but it is an important part of the picture.

And it'll become even more evident in the coming week with the Meaningful Vote debates/vote

Right now, every single option on the table around the MV have costs (economic, political, social).

If there was a generally-agreed objective behind Brexit, then the ability to judge the acceptability of those costs would have been much better: we'd be able to rationalise how those costs were worth wearing for that objective

That would, in turn, allow the building of a Parliamentary consensus around an option that could be treated in broadly similar ways by a large number of MPs

But we don't, so instead we have a week of lots of very different interpretations of how Brexit should progress, very different evaluations of costs/benefits and very much less chance of a consensus emerging

With that in mind, I'm pessimistic that we'll see much progress on this front in the debates prior to the MV, or even in its wake

In sum, it helps a lot to know why you're doing what you're doing

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