No one is deputising as the prime minister starts her second week away. So ministers fight openly over Brexit policy
It is impossible to escape reminders of the consequences of a divided Europe at the moment. Christopher Nolan’s epic account of the Dunkirk retreat has become this summer’s box office blockbuster. On Sunday European dignitaries and members of the Belgian and British royal families gathered in the Belgian frontline town of Mons to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the mud-soaked tragedy of Passchendaele. On 31 July 1917 the first shots were fired in the three-and-a-half-month battle in which the number of casualties will never be known but can be estimated at more than half a million dead and wounded on both sides.
The occasion brought the prime minister, Theresa May, back to work for the weekend, breaking her three weeks in the Swiss mountains. She may be on holiday, but according to Downing Street she is still in charge. Unusually, no official deputy has been named. That makes the past week of conflicting accounts of the government’s intentions for Brexit all the harder to comprehend. To most observers (including some former Tory MPs, such as the Times columnist Matthew Parris, who wrote on Saturday that the chaos made him ashamed to be a Tory), it is both terrifying and appalling that more than a year after the referendum, Mrs May presides over a cabinet that is still arguing about what Brexit should look like.