The Brexit “no deal” option is deeply unattractive, and there is some relief in the City that the transitional period now agreed as a necessary way forward by the cabinet seems to make no deal less likely.
But those who fear cliff edges should not mop their brows too soon. There are in fact warning signs aplenty, all born out of the post-election power vacuum.
There are three possible paths to no deal. One is ill will on either side – a desire, for example, on the part of the EU to punish the Brits for their decision to leave. This seems unlikely at the moment – the sentiment in European capitals is of irritable resignation to Brexit and a desire to get it over with.
The next path is more cock-up than conspiracy, whereby the complexities of the process overwhelm the collective attempt to make a deal. With so many interlocking moving parts, a single sticking point (something like Gibraltar) might derail the whole. This remains a key danger for negotiators to guard against.
The third path is that one side, to put it bluntly, cannot get its act together, and that is the big worry on the UK side. As Theresa May looks around the cabinet table, she sees a bunch of people convinced they could do the job better than her, and avid for an opportunity.
Does anyone really believe that the intricacies of fisheries policy preoccupy David Davis more than the gnawing sense of the tantalising proximity of the office he has always craved? And ambition now fuels a Labour party too that seemed out for the count a few weeks ago.
When MPs vote on the various Brexit bills lined up on the parliamentary stocks, many will be guided by how their decisions shape the post-Theresa May electoral dynamic and not the substance of the issues at hand.
It is a dynamic ripe for posturing and grand gestures, not the messy compromise and deal-making that will be required.
Zuckerberg's intelligence fail?
There was a proper Silicon Valley “popcorn moment” when two of the biggest egos on the planet squared off over the issue of AI. Tesla guru Elon Musk has been outspoken about the risks of AI running beyond human control, and the need to channel and direct this tech. Zuckerberg disagrees, and chastised those sounding alarms as “irresponsible”. Musk’s withering response was a single tweet: “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.” Round One to Musk, but as spectators, we all would rather hope that Zuckerberg is in the right.
Return of The Grid
Media management in Westminster is often described as the art of “feeding the beast” – giving journalists something nice to write about so they do not write something nasty about you. After she came to office, Theresa May’s team turned received wisdom on its head, from a position of unchallenged authority decreed less is more, and made announcements infrequently. All is changed now. This week saw the return of The Grid with ministers actually getting to say stuff in public. Let’s see if they can keep it up.
Energy heats up
For so long rhetoric around the energy sector has been stuck in a rut, with incessant noisy brickbats for the Big Six on behalf of hard-pressed consumers. That will not change for the foreseeable future, but under the radar, a much more complex picture around the issue of energy production is emerging. Renewables make up a bigger and bigger chunk of the mix; demand is set to rise hugely (particularly if people jump on the electric car bandwagon), and more generating capacity will be needed. Not easy. We all know how problematic the Hinkley Point project has been. But if in years to come people can’t charge their smartphone or car, it will not be the energy companies getting it in the neck, but the politicians.