Theresa May is not offering a “deal”

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Theresa May is not offering a “deal”

Here we go again: another round of lies about what the Prime Minister and the EU are offering in lieu of Brexit.

Hoping for third-time lucky, Theresa May has scheduled for Tuesday another vote on her twice-rejected proposal, without improvement, with the same spin: a false choice between no Brexit, “crashing out” of the EU without a deal, and her “deal.”

Yet her proposal is not a “deal” for exiting the EU. May’s proposal is for a transition period while the government works out a policy for how to exit the EU. The transition retains all Britain’s obligations, but abandons Britain’s rights as a member. Her proposal is also a betrayal of her personal and party commitments to replace membership with a free trade deal, and to leave without a deal rather than accept a bad deal.

The transition is scheduled through 2020, taking us 4.5 years beyond the referendum in June 2016. Parliament voted last week to grant an additional delay of three months even if her proposal is voted third-time lucky on Tuesday.

That’s the true position. Now for the lies, fakery, and spin: for Monday morning, the government scheduled a campaign of messages offering the prior false choices. The messagers include a surge of turncoats who are suddenly panicked into giving up Brexit rather than accept mythical economic collapse, the Conservative Party’s collapse, and a general election victory for the Marxist opposition (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party).

The few remaining pro-Brexit newspapers have sided with May’s proposal and accepted the false choice of “no Brexit”, notably The Sun and the Daily Telegraph, even though the latter admits that May’s administration has bounced us into this false choice by failing to prepare for leaving.

The Daily Express’ formally Brexit columnist Leo Mckinstry urged MPs to vote for May’s proposal as it “ultimately leads to independence.” This is a strange claim: the quickest route to independence is to leave when legislatively scheduled on 29 March, without her proposal. The referendum in June 2016 did not include an option on whether or not to leave with a transition arrangement, it just offered a choice between leaving the EU or not. David Cameron’s government committed to leaving the EU entirely on the day after a vote to leave.

May’s proposal doesn’t guarantee a path to independence, and her mendacities and procrastinations suggest that independence is unlikely under her governance. She will have wasted three years since the referendum by the time Parliament’s minimum delay ends, then her proposed transition will last at least through 2020, during which likely she would fail to achieve what she had failed to achieve in the prior three years.

Leo Mckinstry has bought the false choice. He admits that May’s proposal is “deeply unsatisfactory” but characterizes the alternative (leaving on 29 March) as a “mire of chaos and subservience to the EU”, “no Brexit at all”, “paralysis”. Again, this is strange: leaving on 29 March would be decisive, complete, and would end the uncertainty that is paralyzing public and private investment.

Norman Lamont (former MP) too has switched sides, offering a long article of probabilistic judgments. based on intangibles such as “momentum” and what “the PM is likely to go along with”. He too admits that May’s proposal is “far from ideal”. “True, Mrs. May’s deal will not give us, for the moment, the ideal trade policy.” Nevertheless, he peddles her false line that it is a “deal”. In conclusion, he over-reaches further: “Under her deal we will definitely leave.” But for him “leaving” has been downgraded to protection from future further EU “political integration.” Eschewing future integration is a far cry from leaving present integration.

Both Lamont and former member of May’s Cabinet Esther McVey assume that May will step down by this summer, and that her absence would improve Britain’s chances of leaving, but this is another shaky estimate. May has demonstrated her willingness to cling on to power despite repeated failures, betrayals, u-turns, and leadership challenges, and the Conservative Party has demonstrated that even when one Remainer prime minister resigns after campaigning against popular will, the Party chooses another Remainer.

Thence we get to the utter corruption of democracy. Current member of May’s Cabinet Liam Fox said that failing to back May’s “deal” would alienate voters. Why wouldn’t a fake Brexit alienate voters more?

The Democratic Unionist Party is offering to back her fake Brexit,
in return for government spending in Northern Ireland, even though the transition agreement allows for keeping the whole of Ireland in the EU if the EU fails to agree a deal by the end of 2020.

Worse than the turncoat Brexiteers are the emboldened Remainers. Some Remainer newspapers, such as the Financial Times, urge rejection of her proposal in the hope of more delay (last week Parliament authorized indefinite delay in the event of rejection). The Guardian newspaper urges delay in the hope of ultimate rejection of Brexit through a second referendum.

Indefinite delay is now the likeliest consequence of the cycle of false choices that May started. Late in the day on Monday, the Speaker of the House of Commons (John Bercow) suddenly ruled that the government could not re-present her proposal a third time without substantial changes. He cited precedent. This is the same Speaker who has flouted precedent to ensure that Remainer motions can be presented from outside the government, and that pro-Brexit motions are de-prioritized. The Speaker is enabling a Parliamentary conspiracy to frustrate Brexit.

The political class’ capacity for self-delusion in order to find a new consensus reminds me of Parliament coalescing around Neville Chamberlain’s “piece of paper,” with which he returned from meeting with Adolf Hitler in September 1938. More than a year ago, I wrote that May’s concessions to the EU reminded me of Neville Chamberlain’s concessions to Hitler: now the vast majority of Parliament reminds me of Chamberlain’s appeasement, procrastination, and avoidance.

British politicians would rather fake their choices than face them.

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    Bruce Oliver Newsome
    Bruce Oliver Newsome, Ph.D. is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of San Diego
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