This time last year, as the clock ticked down to a no-deal Brexit, Britain was at the height of the most emotional and divisive controversy since the Second World War. Flag-waving crowds were assembling nightly outside Parliament, creating so much noise that TV journalists had to be issued with special microphones in order to be heard. “Stop the Coup” demonstrations had been taking place in most major cities. It was beginning to look like the Maidan protests in Kiev.

Boris Johnson was promising to “die in a ditch” rather than allow Britain to continue in the European Union after October 31. Bring it on, said MPs. They had passed the Benn Act which forced the Prime Minister to write to the European Union asking for the very extension he had refused to contemplate.

Mr Johnson had already been rebuked by the Supreme Court. The “spider lady”, Lady Hale, ruled that he had behaved unlawfully in attempting to prorogue Parliament – put it into extended recess – until the deadline was passed. Nicola Sturgeon accused Johnson of behaving like a “tinpot dictator”.

Confusingly, MPs refused his repeated requests for a General Election to resolve the matter. Labour said there should be no election unless Mr Johnson ruled out a no-deal Brexit – for ever. The SNP and the Liberal Democrats were demanding a second EU referendum rather than a General Election.

It appeared to many that Britain had descended into irreconcilable antagonism and that democracy itself was in peril. MPs were hurling unparliamentary abuse in angry late-night sessions as the government lost vote after vote. Britain seemed to be ungovernable. Families were rent asunder between Remainers and Brexiters. Serious commentators claimed that Britain was witnessing a new form of fascism.

Looking back, it all seems somewhat hysterical. Today, with a no-deal Brexit more likely than ever, there have been no mass demonstrations, no parliamentary antics, no threats. Yet the UK has admitted to breaking international law by reneging on the Northern Ireland backstop. This week, as the UK passed its own deadline for a deal, Mr Johnson unilaterally halted negotiations with Brussels, despite significant concessions from Michel Barnier. Yet the streets remain calm.

Now, obviously, the nation has other things on its mind right now. Social distancing has discouraged people from staging demonstrations. But Covid didn’t stop Black Lives Matters protesters, tens of thousands of them, holding marches at the height of the epidemic in May. If people felt as strongly today about no deal Brexit as they did last year there would be demonstrations despite the coronavirus.

Times change. Labour is under new management and seems vaguely embarrassed by its previous equivocation over Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn never did say how he’d vote in a repeat referendum. The Liberal Democrats are nowhere. Chuka Umunna and Change UK are history.

No one talks about a People’s Vote any more – something that seemed a real possibility this time last year. Then, Ms Sturgeon appeared to be placing a higher priority on it even than a referendum on Scottish independence – a position that looks incomprehensible today.

Mr Johnson now has a comfortable majority and most of the big names of the Brexit era, like Dominic Grieve, are no longer in Parliament. Yet the Prime Minister is arguably weaker today than he was a year ago. His popularity has plummeted and since his illness he seems to have lost much of his brio and self-confidence.

The truth is that Brexit has become boring. It is no longer a culture war between the Remain elites and Brexit-supporting working-class voters. The General Election resolved that, which after all is what democracy is supposed to do. A massive study by Cambridge University reported this week that millennials have lost faith in democracy. But the Brexit war showed that is still the best -– the only way to resolve fundamental political divisions.

Having had that democratic moment, that catharsis, Brexit turned into what it should really have been all along: a highly technical dispute about trade tariffs and regulations. Indeed, there can only be a handful of people in Britain who really understand what the current state of play is on the trade negotiations. I am not one of them.

We were told last month, by both sides, that we were “90 per cent there” Just a few loose ends on state aid and fish. Yet this week even the basic Canada-style trade agreement seems to be unachievable. That would simply avoid tariffs being applied on British cars and dairy products. Canada was the “logical outcome” offered by Michel Barnier back in 2017 in his famous “stairway” graphic on future relationships. But the stairway seems to have become an escalator.

Could access to fishing really scupper a deal involving £372 billion in trade? We are told that French skippers are holding President Macron’s feet to the fire. Yet our fishing fleet employs fewer people than the number of fitness instructors. It is a vexed issue, of course, not least for the SNP, which was always hostile over the Common Fisheries Policy and EU quotas. But it is hardly an issue to justify a trade war.

One assumes that this and the state aid rules will be resolved before Christmas. And even if they aren’t, a fudged deal of some sort will emerge. Mr Johnson is trying to act tough, and show that Britannia rules its waves again, but this is largely to placate Tory backbench “spartans” who think he’s a backslider.

There will no doubt be an agreement that the UK will observe common “principles” on anti-competitive state aid, and on environmental and trading standards generally. The UK already operates under EU rules so these can be rolled over. Fish will be split down the middle, and buried in vague language about conservation. Britain and the UK will agree to disagree on just how much Britain can depart from EU regulations in future. The European Court of Justice will cease to have any jurisdiction in the UK.

There’s just too much money at stake on both sides to risk a full-scale trade war. Brussels realises that the political heat has gone out of Brexit. There’ll be a deal even if there’s “no deal”.

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