FOND, of course, of her footwear, Theresa May crowned the Christmas tree at her parish church in Maidenhead with a glittering high-heeled shoe. Clearly, advisors had wracked their brains to avoid what would have been seen as the faux pas of attaching a star, hinting at the EU flag.

In fact, to match her first-phase Brexit deal, Mrs May might just as well have fixed the EU flag, with all 28 stars, and have done with it. What a capitulation. A huge divorce bill, though Article 50, the means of leaving the EU, makes no mention of such. The European Court of Justice will oversee matters relating to EU citizens until 2029 – and doubtless in that time set much case law that will stand long afterwards. And did you know that under this protection EU immigrants hold the right, denied to UK citizens, to bring their families here? Astonishing, but true.

When Mrs May said “Brexit means Brexit" it appeared to herald swift, decisive action. But a whole year was wasted and now there is to be a "transition" of uncertain length. The Irish border question has been postponed, and on trade Mrs May has accepted that if things go badly the UK will remain “in full alignment” with the EU. No wonder one (unnamed) Tory MP Brexiteer, while swelling the chorus that sings Mrs May’s deal as a triumph, admits Nigel Farage is right in branding it a “humiliation” – but to say so would end his career.

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Why was it suddenly necessary for Mrs May to fly in the small hours to agree the EU’s terms? I believe it was because the EU realised it had overplayed its obstructive hand. EU heads were widely reported to fear that the collapse of the main talks could trigger Mrs May’s downfall, ushering in a possibly tougher replacement. The EU is toying with our Prime Minister.

Though nothing is yet concrete, the terms so far provisionally agreed strike me as being designed so that if, post Brexit, we decide we wish to rejoin the EU, we can slip back in almost overnight with no fuss – a stark contrast to getting out. Despite needing to safeguard its £80bn trade surplus with the UK, the likelihood is that the EU will equally play hardball over trade. For its prime mission is the creation of a United States of Europe, to which end it is not seeking a mutually satisfactory outcome with the UK, but determined to punish it as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to leave.

As matters drag on, remember this: in the middle of a December night, the elected leader of the UK’s elected government was virtually summoned to Brussels by the unelected leader of the unelected EU Commission to rubber stamp terms set before her. I’ve called it a capitulation. Reaching for my thesaurus (an extremely rare event I might add) I find these alternatives: “surrender, yielding, non-resistance, obedience etc.” Thank you, Roget. Dead right.

The Northern Echo:

BANG on cue after my defence here last week of the magpie, a pair appeared in my garden – the first for months. Was their chakkering call excited thanks, or the “cackling laughter” as imagined by children’s author Michael Morpurgo, mocking me and all humans?