Poor Mrs May, humiliated in Salzburg by EU leaders and humiliated at home by Tory zealots. True to form she blamed the EU for the debacle warning with a mix of defiance and desperation of the danger of a chaotic ‘no deal’ Brexit. In reality the blame lies with her. Following her ascent to power in the aftermath of Cameron’s reckless Tory referendum she made the unenforced error of adopting the zealots red lines in her negotiations with the EU. In doing so, she demonstrated the Eurosceptic misunderstanding of the EU and the UK’s power to influence. It was fanciful to believe that the EU would compromise on the benefits and principles embedded in membership of the single market by allowing a country who had chosen to leave to ‘cherry pick.’
In Salzburg her refusal to recognise this reality and/or diplomatic incompetence, was the cause of her miserably failure. In denial, she accused EU leaders of failing to treat Britain with respect, thereby implying that she herself is incapable of earning it. If there has been a lack of respect, it has been the government’s disregard of Michel Barnier’s repeated warnings that if the UK stuck to its red lines, the only option for negotiation is a Canada type free trade agreement which would trigger the UK-EU’s agreed backstop on Northern Ireland. Something Mrs May now says she can’t accept – thus demonstrating little respect for a solemn undertaking she entered into last December. The problem with a FTA is that it does not result in frictionless trade with the EU – non-tariff barriers remain - and, rabid Tory zealots aside, this is recognised as being very costly for the UK economy while threatening the Norther Ireland peace settlement.
24th September 2018