May’s speech last week signal’s the start of the Conservative Party’s preparation for life in opposition. The EU will now string out our Brexit ‘transition’ until Labour have seized power in 2022, at which point the fire of hope surrounding Britain’s departure from Europe will officially be extinguished, says Peter Divey.
Asked and answered. The British electorate had just advised the Government of their desire to depart the EU. The public had been told that this would be taken as an instruction and acted upon forthwith. Absolutely no doubt about that. We were thus fooled by the Lancaster House speech which was born from that moment of certainty. Now we are in a different time. The Prime Minister’s recent speech at the United Nations was trite nonsense, fashionably knocking Trump to garner some plaudits. Already a marked downhill slope. This Florence speech is carrying on in that plunging fashion. Just awful.
Theresa May finds herself in a tricky situation. She does not really like the advice that the public have given. How can we honour our pledge and at the same time ignore the instruction and remain electable? You would need an illusion, a magic trick of such scope and deviousness as to be hard to imagine. But our Prime Minister has found one. Played out with such a sleight of hand that even the Cabinet itself collectively endorses it. How can that possibly fail?
Theresa May is going for the non-Brexit Brexit. We will “exit” in 2019. But no one will be able to tell. Everything will remain the same. We will still be subject to the full scrutiny of EU regulation and law. No trade deals can be discussed let alone finalised. Liam Fox will have nothing to do. The ECJ will retain judicial primacy. Migration and freedom of movement will be unchecked. None of the “four pillars” will be compromised. Britain may wish to “register” EU workers and visitors but there is not one chance of this being accepted. We have blinked first. We have shown weakness. This special parallel procedure will be called “transition”. This will prove to any remaining doubters that we are indeed out. It will give time for business to prepare for the treacherous and precipitous “cliff edge” caused by leaving. Even though we have already left.
Britain had a very strong hand. Money. A commodity the EU spends wildly. Britain’s contribution was an essential component of the EU budget. This Florence speech was all about tone. Friendship. Reaching out to our EU partners. Generosity of spirit. The EU knew what was coming, several continental journalists had talked about a “game changing” approach. Will £20 billion be enough? Will you talk to us now? This money is not a bribe, nor is it a response to extortion. It will cover the costs of transition from which we will undoubtedly accrue much benefit and added value. Meanwhile, back at home British citizens struggle under austerity because of cutbacks in attempts to eliminate the deficit. NHS rationing must be endured, it is all for the National good. Everyone has to do their bit. But not EU citizens. The PM has given a pledge ensuring no EU member state will have to contribute further in the short term. It is more important to be “generous” abroad than at home. Now that the money pot has been opened the EU will demand and expect more. We have needlessly given away our strongest suit. Folded the first time our bluff was called. Unfortunately, the PM is not “bloody difficult”. Transition may last up to 2022, it is unclear. This will be negotiated. If we pay enough. Perhaps it will never end?
The Tory party has now lost my vote. They do not deserve it. I am not alone. Corbyn is now certain to be the next Prime Minister. The Tory Party conference should be fun. They are preparing for opposition. The EU won’t miss a trick. They will string the transition along until Labour are in power. Brexit will then be officially killed. Britain will probably have paid a further Brexit bill by then. Let’s say £30 billion. We will not see that money again. We will re-join on significantly worse terms than even now. Even though we never left. Funny old game.