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Monday, 9 October 2017

Mrs May Drags Out the Agony

Putting aside the disasters of the recent election and the very recent Tory Conference, as best she may, the Prime Minister will today fantasize in the House of Commons about 'progress' in the talks with the EU about Brexit.

From what has been released in advance, she plans to develop on the charade that she enacted in Florence a couple of weeks ago, when she spoke to much of her Cabinet, the British press and a few bored Italian officials about where she thought the negotiations had got to. She was spectacularly vague on all the relevant points about which EU officials and commentators had already asked repeatedly for clarification and specificity. She apparently intends to say to the Commons that she has now made everything crystal clear, and that the EU must now 'respond' by offering concessions.

The truth is, that David Cameron led to Tories to their surprise victory in the 2015 election by promising the referendum on leaving the EU. He confidently expected that this would produce a massive vote in favour of remaining, which would bury the Tory exiteers who had been a pain to the party since John Major accepted the Maastricht Treaty. The Liberals were removed from the scene, effectively, in 2015 by the kicking that they got for aligning with the Tories in the 2010 coalition that had increased student fees. Labour lost votes in Labour heartlands in that election, partly because they opposed the idea of the referendum. So, against all expectations, the Tories won the 2015 election; but their majority in the Commons was only half the size that would be needed to marginalise the thirty-or-so Conservative nutters who apparently believe - really believe - that Britain can survive as an independent economy in a world characterised by regional trade pacts, point protectionism and chauvinistic policies to protect sectors of the economy that are essential for national defence. These headbangers airily assert - contrary to all the available evidence - that if we boldly go where no sane man or woman would go, we will reap the same sort of rewards as the UK gained when we were both the only industrialised economy in the world and the most dominant imperial power. The sheer silliness of such thinking - or, maybe, absence of the power to think - needs no further comment.

By losing the election this year, Mrs May found herself left with around thirty MPs who are determined to devastate the economy in pursuit of their delusion. They will support Boris Johnson remaining in high office, and they are apparently demanding that the Chancellor be sacked for making reasoned statements about the probable economic effect of a 'hard Brexit'. Mrs May is evading giving a strong lead, and this will weaken her already-impossible position and contribute to the ultimate demise of the Tory party as we have known it.

The only powerful and patriotic thing that she should do - starting with her Commons statement today - is to say that the UK has been shamefully imprecise in the Brexit talks so far, to give a specific cash offer on the 'divorce bill' [making it quite clear that mediation is available] and make a sensible offer as to what would be the relations of UK courts and the EU Court in the period after March 2019. Then she should outline sensible terms for a post-Brexit relationship with the European Economic Area and defy the headbangers to force a general election that Labour would be likely to win.

The bonkers Brexiteers should be flushed out and forced to say - precisely - where the 'facts' arise that nobody else can see. Then they should fall into line to avert a Corbyn government.

The clock is ticking on Brexit, and Mrs May's attempts to evade the implosion of the Tory Party - though entirely comprehensible - are ruinous.

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