So Flexit -a flexible Brexit or separate deals with the EU for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are ruled out – for now at least.
“We have been very clear that we should be working together to secure the best possible deal for the whole country,” the prime minister’s official spokeswoman said on Monday.
“We expect representatives of the devolved administrations to act in that way and to in no way undermine the UK’s position.”
“The devolved administrations” (to use the bloodless term) , have been put in their place. They have to be satisfied in the meantime with the delights of regular meetings with David Davis the Brexit secretary. At least two of them by Christmas!
“ Deep frustration” is Nicola Sturgeon’s verdict . But even Arlene Foster warns they must be fully represented” in the Brexit negotiations. This was not on offer yesterday.
Mrs May has declined to appease nationalist sentiment in Scotland. For now she retains the initiative against Ms Sturgeon if only because her aims for Brexit aren’t clear.
If they remain unclear even after negotiations begin, at what point does Sturgeon challenge them?
If they lean towards access to the single market over the next few months, can Sturgeon really afford to denounce them?
Mrs May’s unionist rhetoric makes no concessions to anyone else’s nationalism. This may be tactical or even principled. But it should be remembered that she has spent her entire life from schooldays to the premiership along a sixty mile line from Oxfordshire to central London. In that sense her conditioning may be as restricted as any other provincial. Her personal political identity shares a flavour with English nationalism at odds with the cosmopolitanism rejected in the Brexit verdict. Remember in her conference speech: “ a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere?”
And we know what happens when nationalisms collide.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London