No doubt most of the people who voted Leave in June 2016 did so in the belief it would increase parliament’s control over Britain’s destiny. I wonder how many now realise how grievously they were mistaken. Since setting out her red lines for Brexit in her Lancaster House speech, Theresa May has spent twenty one months retreating from them. This was not as a result of parliamentary pressure. Far from it. Parliament’s influence has been sadly lacking and MPs are now hopelessly deadlocked as to the way forward. Rather, Mrs May has been forced to adjust to the reality that leaving the EU will result in irreparable damage to the UK’s economy and global influence.
It is difficult to fathom what Mrs may was thinking when she told her Lancaster House audience that she had a ‘Plan for Britain’. It is clear that no such plan exists. At best she had an aspiration – essentially the absence of a plan – that the UK would forge a bespoke trading relationship with the EU to deliver frictionless trade. Erudition dictates that this requires, de facto, membership of the EEA and customs union. But, in her Lancaster House speech Mrs May dismissed EEA membership because it would require the UK to enforce laws it had not been party to agreeing. She also ruled out membership of the customs union as it would prevent the UK negotiating – as yet uncertain – FTAs with third countries. She went on to list twelve objectives she wanted to achieve in negotiating Brexit, including: a smooth, orderly Brexit providing certainty for businesses; making the UK the best place for science and innovation; and strengthening the Union. The only mention of Ireland was the intention to maintain a common travel area. Finally, she expected to have finalised both the withdrawal agreement and the myriad of future relationships with the EU by the end of the 2-year Article 50 progress.
27th October 2018