Not a good year for Theresa May. It was always a fantasy to believe that having left the EU the UK could continue to enjoy frictionless trade with its erstwhile partners. This benefit is only possible inside the Single Market and Customs Union. That said, the current Brexit debacle is in large measure of her own making. From the start of her tenure her approach to Brexit has been characterised by misjudgements, disingenuity and stubbornness.
These traits where on display the day she became Prime Minister and declared ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Having missed that opportunity to reach out to Remainers she further boxed herself in with her ‘red lines’ Lancaster House speech – just a week before the Supreme Court told her the government’s attempt to by-pass Parliament was unlawful. Even worse was the monumental error of judgement to trigger Article 50 before drawing up – on the basis of detailed studies – realistic negotiating objectives. Instead, by allowing appeasement of her zealots to dominate, she locked herself into an end date and at a stroke forfeited leverage in the negotiations.
Theresa May’s unpropitious characteristics were again on display in her decision to call an election in June 2017. During the campaign her weaknesses were exposed, her gamble rebounded spectacularly forcing her to enter the Brexit negotiations with a hung Parliament and dependent on the DUP to sustain her in office. Having ensured with her red lines and end date the cementing of EU solidarity and lacking a viable solution for the Northern Ireland border, she had little alternative but to concede when it came to the ‘backstop’ ie, keeping Northern Ireland in the Single Market and Customs Union in the absence of a viable alternative. The twenty six supported Dublin, not London. And then under pressure from the intransigent DUP she was forced to widen the backstop to incorporate the whole of the UK.
29th December 2018