The Chequers plan would leave us worse off than if wed stayed in the EU

Its the hope that kills you.

This is certainly true of the football, where the prospect of England reaching a World Cup final for the first time in over 50 years seemed more than just a pipedream.

Alas, that dream has been dashed. And given the way things are shaping up, it seems the same could be said of Brexit.

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Leading up to the referendum in 2016, it was made very clear by both campaigns that Brexit would mean leaving the Single Market and EU customs union.

The case was very strongly made that this could deliver Britain to a land of milk and honey, where a new independent UK trade policy would clear the way for free trade agreements to be forged with countries outside the EU, revitalising the economy; where protectionist and costly regulations would be scrapped to benefit both businesses and consumers alike; and where control would be placed back in the hands of politicians we have elected.

The proposals made in the Chequers plan, if implemented, would deliver on none of these Brexit boons.

In fact, if accepted by the EU (which it most likely will not be, forcing the UK government to concede further still), this deal would add up to little more than a minor renegotiation of our EU membership – and not a good one.

As my colleague Victoria Hewson had pointed out, adherence to a so-called “common rulebook” would mean that the UK will have to continue to abide by the judgments of the European Court of Justice, therefore making it almost impossible to establish and carry forward any kind of independent trade policy.

And the Brexit white paper released on Thursday makes it quite clear that divergence from these rules of any kind would not be an option. If we did try to diverge, the UK would be in breach of international obligations, resulting in huge fines. It is therefore highly unlikely we would even try.

It would also mean that the UK would not have any real control over the regulations imposed on UK businesses – crucially, those applicable to the 88 per cent of our economy that does not consist of exports to the EU.

So much for the red tape and regulation bonfire which those who voted to leave were hoping for once Brexit was complete.

Essentially, the UK would become a rule-taker, still collecting and passing on EU tariffs without reciprocation. And without a seat at the table, this deal could potentially place us in a much worse position than we were in before the referendum.

In some ways, its not a surprise that this is where we find ourselves. There has been an abundance of negotiating blunders made by this government over the past two years. Perhaps the biggest of all hasnt been the political chaos at all, but was rather the misguided refusal to make contingency plans for a no-deal scenario, thus robbing Britain of our leverage.

The roll-out of the Brexit white paper – with Brussels seeing the Chequers proposals before members of the UK cabinet, and MPs not given a chance to read the full document before the debate – has been chaotic. It slams of downright sneakiness. Its almost as if Theresa May and her officials know that this deal is a betrayal of the 17.4m people who voted to leave.

We now have to place all our hope in parliament – and, in fact, in the EU – to reject this non-deal and start again from scratch. Otherwise no-deal might be the only shot we have at a clean Brexit. Perhaps preparations for such a scenario should begin in earnest.

Hopes of football coming home may be gone, but fingers crossed that sovereignty still is.

Read more: PM pushes on with Chequers plan as Eurosceptic rebellion looms

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