Following the resignation of David Cameron, the selection of Theresa May by the Conservative party did not, at first, seem to be too bad. Although not a Brexiteer, she made the right noises – No Deal is better than a Bad Deal, leaving the EU means leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market. The appointment of Brexiteers to key positions to deliver Brexit all boded well. So far, so good, but it was not long before the weaknesses started to appear.
The U-Turn regarding an election was the first crack, followed by the disastrous and frankly self-serving campaign (Vote for Theresa May!) that resulted in a hung parliament ran alongside the first of her capitulations to the EU, where she ignored David Davis to agree to a two-stage negotiation with the EU over the withdrawal. This single act sowed the seeds of the subsequent disastrous agreement. There followed many missed deadlines; agreements announced that were clearly fudges. The transfer of the chief negotiator away from the Brexit department to Downing Street showed that the Prime Minister was taking personal charge of the negotiations. Why she insisted on maintaining the pretence of a Brexit department is a mystery.
Last year, the culmination of all the negotiations was at Chequers. The outline of the deal was presented to Ministers as a fait accompli – take it or leave it. This with no input from the Brexit department or David Davis as Brexit Secretary. Allegedly, ministers were told that if they did not agree to the deal, they would be fired and need to find their own way home. If this were true, why did any of them remain? Personally, I would have walked out as soon as that announcement was made, without even reading the agreement. It’s called self-respect, and I would never accept being treated in such a manner by anyone. Sadly, the fact that they all stayed (at least until they got home) shows what they are – which is why they go along with the EU treating us in the same way.
Since then, it has been downhill all the way. A succession of Brexit secretaries finding that they have no power or influence and the subsequent treaty that was eventually agreed by the Prime Minister. This disastrous agreement, condemned by almost everyone, has now plagued our politics for the past 6 months. The sight of Theresa May clinging desperately to power as vote after vote went against her is pitiful if you are feeling charitable. From a less kind perspective, it is enraging to see an individual putting her self-interest ahead of not just her party (which she has effectively destroyed), but much more importantly, that of the country as a whole. This has been accompanied by a level of duplicitous behaviour that has been hard to credit – saying the things to each side that they want to hear, even though she ends up clearly contradicting herself. Does she not understand that both sides can hear everything she says?
This week, she has announced her 10 point plan to amend the political statement that accompanies her appalling treaty. You can always tell when someone has 10 points to their plan that it is more to do with presentation than delivery. Far from getting MPs back on board, even those that have previously supported the deal are now backing away. Today, as the media goes into another frenzy of speculation about when she will leave, British Steel is placed into administration. They have blamed what is widely reported as ‘Brexit related issues’, but which were initially announced as Brexit related uncertainty. One Union spokesman stated that they could deal with Brexit and they could deal with Remaining, but they could not deal with the uncertainty – this was preventing investment and procurement decisions being made and consequent lower level orders. This was reinforced by a separate comment from someone who had attended a CBI event where the same statement was made. Business wants certainty and the delay incurred by Theresa May’s incompetence has just extended the uncertainty with the consequent effect on business and peoples livelihoods. If we had left, properly left not under her proposed bill, British Steel could have avoided the £120M bill for carbon trading that hampers their ability to compete in world markets, and the government could have agreed on the £30M loan that would have seen them through, without needing approval from European Commission.
We are now in the death throes of her government and not a moment too soon. She is still desperately trying to set the terms of her departure rather than acknowledging that she has failed and withdrawing gracefully. She went to see the Queen… I hope she was told not to come back next week.