So Mrs May is facing a barrage of criticism for the deal she has made with Michel Barnier to leave the EU. Hardly surprising, under the circumstances, but what I find amazing is that she has allowed herself to fall between two stools and managed to upset everybody.
The Brexiteers think the deal gives far too much away to Brussels and when it comes to the Remainers, they think she needs to be closer to the EU. There has been much written about it elsewhere but if you need to know what’s wrong with it, the Spectator has a good analysis.
The prospect of Mrs May getting this deal through the House of Commons is remote. Already those cleverer than I have done the sums; the Labour opposition has said it will vote down any such deal so although there could be a handful of Labour MPs who would be willing to vote with the Conservatives, the vast majority of them won’t. The LibDems will, of course, but they’re outnumbered by the DUP whose leader Arlene Foster has already said she won’t agree to the deal as it breaks up the UK.
There are many Conservatives who will also vote against the deal, even if she imposes a three-line whip, so she will not get the HoC to agree. She’s not stupid. She’s a consummate politician and, grudgingly, I have some respect for her in that regard. It was said of Maggie Thatcher that she had more balls than all of her cabinet put together and from her actions so far, I would like to grant the same compliment to Mrs May. She’s as nice as pie in front of the television cameras but I would imagine that behind closed doors she’s one tough cookie.
But her advisors must have told her that the deal won’t be agreed in the House, so what does she do now?
The Labour opposition will insist that she goes back to the EU and negotiates a better deal, but she will now how hard she fought for the deal that’s on the table now and she will also know that if she makes any more demands for concessions, Barnier will simply say ‘No!’.
Now we hear that he is likely to demand more from us. The Times says:
“A group of European countries rounded on Michel Barnier this week to demand that the chief EU negotiator squeeze more concessions out of Britain in talks next week.
Some EU nations believe that the UK would have an economic advantage after Brexit if it were able to diverge from European laws and regulations while still having access to the single market. They are also demanding greater powers for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and greater fishing rights in British waters.”
And Mrs May must know that if she gives anything more away her difficulties will increase here in the UK.
What happens if the EU parliament agrees the terms in the coming week and our own Parliament rejects them? Will we simply drift towards the end of March without a deal and at that time start trading under WTO? Perhaps this is the best option, but will May allow it to happen?
She has laid out the options clearly if MPs don’t agree to the plan: no deal or no Brexit, and she has already threatened that if the plan is not agreed, she could scrap Brexit completely. I don’t know if she has the authority to do that but she has said so very many, many times ‘Brexit means Brexit’, although not so much recently, and she knows that history will come down on her like a ton of bricks if she scraps the whole project now.
She could change her mind and go for another snap General Election, but to do so, under the fixed term rules the House of Commons must agree by a two-thirds majority, and after the fiasco of the last snap GE when the Tories lost their overall majority, that is unlikely.
Could she go for a second referendum or a People’s Vote? There is a growing movement for her to do just that but how would the question be decided? The last referendum voted to ‘Leave the EU’ so surely one of the questions if there is a second referendum could not be ‘Do you want to Leave the EU?’ as demanded by the LibDems. That has already been decided.
Could the question be simply binary – ‘Do you want to accept the current deal on the table or leave under World Trade Organisation rules?’ That would be the best option, as far as we Kippers are concerned; the answer is obvious.
She might face a leadership challenge if the 48 letters of no confidence go into the 1922 committee but even that isn’t a foregone conclusion. The rules state that although there has to be a leadership election, she is eligible to stand and might even be re-elected into the post, at which stage her authority can’t be challenged for another year, by which time it’ll be all over.
The Labour opposition could propose a motion of no confidence in the government which if passed, gives the government a further 14 days to overturn. If they can’t do this, a General Election has to be held immediately.
So what can WE do? If we don’t leave the EU fully and completely, with our borders intact, with our contributions ended, with our laws made in Westminster, with our fish – OUR fish – in our seas and no further problems in Northern Ireland, will this be enough to foment serious action against our government? And if so, what sort of action might be contemplated? Writing to our MP? Oh, perleease! Waving banners and chanting around the House of Commons? A little better but who thinks the Prime Minister is going to take a blind bit of notice of us?
Civil disobedience? That has to be organised. The use of our vehicles? We could snarl up roads in a concerted effort – not something that I would relish but when we Brits are really stirred up, watch out world! Climate change activists jammed up Central London yesterday in a pretty good demonstration which included a whole range of people who had been trained by the organisers to get themselves arrested. Can we do the same thing? It provoked a lot of publicity (see Sunday papers).
There can be only one answer – WTO rules. Yes, there’ll be some problems initially, perhaps some shortages, but these will be overcome in a very short space of time – after all, we’re British, and the EU will be suffering far more than us at loss of trade; with pressure from their businesses they’ll soon come begging for a deal. Doesn’t May know this? Hasn’t she been advised? How do we go about notifying her that we as a country are fed up to the back teeth with the way she has handled this withdrawal? Anyone any ideas?