As I wrote here for Iain Martin’s site Reaction Life, the delay in being transparent about what the UK government wants was, I conjecture, mostly about conducting a negotiation between former Tory Remainers and the victorious Brexiteers.
The UK had to approach the EU with a schedule that explained how much it was prepared to pay in terms of obstructing trade for control over migration. But the price differed between competing Tory factions. The Remainers won’t pay anything, and perhaps even include those of us who view migration as a social benefit. Hard Brexiteers see migration as costly, so will pay something. And there are even those Brexiteers that have convinced themselves into thinking that separating from the single market will increase trade and prosperity overall, not reduce it. So for those, migration is on the benefit side of the calculation, as is single market dismantling.
The hard Brexiteers have clearly won out. But at what cost to them? Did the Remainers and the liberal leavers extract a price? Could they command one? If they could, did the hard Brexiteers have anything to offer?
The hard-Brexit/rest divide tends to correlate with other views in the populace at large, so one could imagine in principle that Remainer/liberal leaver MPs could buy something with their capitulation.
But, thinking further about it, I can’t come up with anything concrete.
The post referendum mood seems to involve the Theresa May and the Tory Remainers tilting left. Embracing less regressive taxes, industrial policy, regional policy. That they would share with the hard Brexiteers, perhaps, who carry the UKIP manifesto in their pockets. So that isn’t something the two factions could trade for Brexit capitulation.
Striking a deal seals the prospect of a long uninterrupted period in government, of course. But both sides need each other for that. So that also is not something that can compensate Remainers for giving up.