A fascinating analysis of where we are at with Brexit, and particularly the potential situation facing Labour on this key issue if it wins this week’s General Election, has been delivered by Institute for Government senior fellow Jill Rutter.

Ms Rutter worked at the Institute for Government from 2009 to 2019, leading work on Brexit, policymaking and arm’s length bodies. Before joining the institute, she spent most of her career in the civil service, working at HM Treasury, No.10 Downing Street and most recently at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She is, clearly, in a position to offer a valuable perspective.

Her article for the Institute for Government focuses on how the major parties are desperate to avoid 2024 being a Brexit election, while making the point that the smaller parties’ manifestos show that divisions on this issue are far from over.

It opens thus: “Governments seeking re-election normally trumpet their successes in delivering their promises. The logic of the 2019 ‘Get Brexit Done’ election was that the battle cry in 2024 should be ‘Got Brexit Done’.

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“The fact it is not, even though it is led by a prime minister who described himself as ‘the original Brexiteer’ and a cabinet drawn predominantly from the Leave side of the campaign, speaks volumes about where they think Brexit has got to.”

It surely does. Mr Sunak was indeed at the forefront of the Brexit drive. And Brexit was absolutely the issue which Boris Johnson used to woo the likes of red-wall voters in the December 2019 election.

This strategy paid off for Mr Johnson in terms of his sweeping victory. However, it has cost the UK very dearly in terms of an enormous loss of economic output and a blow to living standards.

Ms Rutter says of what has transpired: “Remainers have not seen anything to convince themselves that they were wrong to think Brexit was a mistake. But Boris Johnson’s success in 2019 was based on becoming the party of Leave - helped by the decision of the then Brexit Party not to contest Conservative seats. Rishi Sunak's problem now is that few of those Leave voters seem to think the Government has done Brexit well.

“There are only crumbs to offer an awkward coalition of libertarians who want a radically smaller state, large scale deregulation, and buccaneering in a free trading world - a couple of trade deals with Australia and New Zealand (not the prize of a US deal, which Johnson's former communications director Lee Cain told us Liz Truss wanted to make the rallying cry in the 2019 election) and patchy divergence from EU regulation. For them there is a promise of more Brexit opportunities to be seized - but concrete ideas are few.”

She adds: “Nor is there much to show for the Brexit voters who wanted to gain control of the borders. Legal migration has soared.”

Ms Rutter notes all this “might appear an opportunity for Labour to differentiate itself on Brexit”.

However, she declares: “Keir Starmer is still battling to overturn the impression from his time as Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary that he was keen to reverse the referendum result, alienating those who voted Leave.”

She notes Labour’s offer is “to make Brexit work”.

However, Ms Rutter highlights a crucial barrier to such an ambition, declaring: “The institutional route that used to be on offer - through membership of the single market and the customs union, is ruled out, as is a return to free movement.”

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She observes: “The Labour manifesto mentions closer security cooperation as well as cooperation on unauthorised migration, but it is very light on any detail of what that new deal might look like - it was left to Rachel Reeves to go further in an interview in the Financial Times by setting out more concrete ideas for a veterinary deal and other possible sectoral deals. Whether there is any appetite for such deals in the EU - and what concessions on, for example fisheries, the EU might demand in return remain hypothetical for now.”

This is hardly an encouraging assessment for anyone hoping for significantly closer relations with the European Union if Labour wins the election, but it is an entirely realistic one.

Ms Rutter observes that all other parties are “critical of the Brexit status quo”.

Reform UK, she notes, “claims it would do what the Government has failed to - seize the opportunities of Brexit by scrapping all remaining EU law and the Windsor framework”.

However, she also observes: “Of course, Reform will not have to deal with the consequences of either move since they admit they will not form the next government.”

So why does what Reform UK thinks matter?

Ms Rutter says: “That outflanking of the Conservatives with promises of an ever harder (or purer) Brexit has the potential to act as a siren to some candidates in the upcoming battle for the future direction of the Conservatives if they lose - especially if they see a haemorrhaging of support to Reform."

What is far more interesting, of course, is the Brexit views of the other smaller parties at Westminster, including the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

Ms Rutter observes: “More relevant to Labour may be the appeal - not least to many of its members and newly elected MPs - of the positions of the other smaller parties. All want to see a much closer relationship with the EU - re-joining the single market or the EU, as the UK or in the case of the SNP as an independent Scotland. The manifestos of the two nationalist parties focus on the damage done to the Scottish and Welsh economies of Brexit (notwithstanding the Welsh majority for Leave).

“The Liberal Democrats set out page after page of areas where they want to see more cooperation with the EU, and then see that improved relationship paving the way for the UK to re-join the single market, with EU membership possible in the longer term.”

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Ms Rutter’s analysis of what all of this might mean for Labour is eye-catching.

She says: “In the 2019-24 parliament all the running was made by Brexit supporters, bemoaning any compromise by government and pressing for harder Brexit. If the polls are anywhere near right, that will be a hugely diminished force after July 4. In place a possible Labour government would face an array of opposition forces decrying it for failing to pursue a closer relationship that they will argue is a lever that Labour could pull to deliver its growth mission. How Labour responds could be one of the defining decisions of the next parliament.”

It is difficult indeed to guess how Labour might respond.

Labour leader Sir Keir argued vociferously against Brexit in late 2019. Now he is a convert to Mr Johnson’s hard Brexit.

It is difficult to escape the notion, given all of this, that Sir Keir will do whatever is politically expedient.

If Labour does win this week’s General Election, how Sir Keir reacts to the “array of opposition forces” in the next parliament flagged by Ms Rutter would seem likely to depend on the size of any majority as well as, you would imagine, what he observes with a continuing hawk-like eye on what the likes of the red-wall voters are thinking.

It could be some time yet before we see some common sense from Labour on Brexit, sadly, but it would be good to see some serious pressure on it if it does win power this week, to do the right thing by the electorate.