The government could well be aiming for a Withdrawal Agreement that leaves all contentious issues to be solved only after Brexit, during the transition phase which in the meantime keeps the status quo.
This minimises (temporarily) the risks to the unity of the Conservative party, but maximises the risks to the country.
By securing agreement in principle to a transition during which Britain remains in the customs union, single market and technical agencies, the cliff edge facing businesses and the economy is postponed for 21 months.
Postponed but not sorted. Parliament would be asked to give the green light to Brexit without any guarantee of the terms of our future access to our main export market, landing rights for our airlines, UK participation in the EU’s useful technical agencies, our adherence to EU standards of workers’ and consumer rights or any of the other numerous issues that need to be resolved.
All this would be negotiated after we’ve left, when we would have less leverage than we have now – and with no recourse for our parliament to call a halt if things go wrong or the government doesn’t deliver what was promised.
No doubt there will be soothing words from the prime minister. She will say we shouldn’t worry, that all will be fine, that there’s plenty of time to deal with all of this once we’ve left, and that it’s perfectly safe to leave the EU before knowing what comes next.
Parliament would be invited to buy a pig in a poke. MPs are being asked to write a blank cheque giving full confidence to the government to determine our future in whatever way it wants.
Surely that’s not acceptable to our proud, sovereign parliament?