IT’S not a word you encounter much these days – or have done for some while.

My dictionary (Chambers) launches its definitions with: “One who holds land from, and renders homage to, a superior: a bondman, slave.” That’s vassal as a noun.

But it can also be an adjective. Chambers expounds: “In the relation or state of a vassal: subordinate: servile.”

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And it was in that sense that Tory MP and prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg used it at a meeting of the Brexit Select Committee. Observing that during the transition period Britain will still be tied to the EU’s single-market rules and pay into the EU budget, he asked, rhetorically: “Are we not a vassal state?”

His resurrection of the ancient word drew surprisingly few headlines. But it makes you sit up, doesn’t it? It brings home vividly exactly where our limp Brexit campaign is leading. For there can be little doubt that Rees-Mogg’s vassal assessment is right.

Let us give it a little context. Britain is leaving the EU through the means provided by the EU for any nation that wishes to withdraw: Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This makes no mention of a divorce bill. Yet we have promised to pay £39bn. The Article is also mute on transition. Yet we have agreed a transition of “around two years” (ie could be more) from our exit. During that time, stretching to at least five years beyond our referendum vote to leave, we must not only maintain our budget payments but accept unrestricted EU immigration and laws handed down by the European Court of Justice. All without any say. It’s vassalage – Chambers’ definition “dependence: subjection: a fee, fief” – with a vengeance.

The EU’s purpose is clear. It aims to delay full Brexit as long as possible, hoping, perhaps even trusting, a second referendum will deliver a cringing Britain to its door, pleading to be readmitted. Though certain to be allowed back, the terms would not be as before. Our rebate would go, and we would most probably have to promise not to attempt to leave again. Abasement of the vassal.

Rees-Mogg has done well to open eyes to this looming humiliation by dredging up a word from medieval England. But perhaps in case its meaning escaped some who couldn’t be troubled to look it up, he deployed an alternative term. He called on Brexit Secretary David Davis to stop Britain being an EU lackey, a “servile follower” in Chambers. But you knew lackey well enough. Which of us, however, wants to be one? Or see our nation, which likes to present itself as a beacon and bulwark of democracy and freedom, reduced to one?

DONALD TRUMP – butt of many jokes. But no American president can match his impact in his first year. None even comes close. A window display at Waterstones in Northallerton is devoted entirely to seven books about the ridiculed one’s presidency so far.

WALKING in the Lake District I noticed a pithy slogan on gates provided by the national park authority: Respect. Protect. Enjoy. Applying the first two should mean the shortest of shrifts for the Thirlmere zip wires – or any on the open fells.