As MPs ready to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, it is necessary to point out that there will be nothing accidental if Britain crashes out of the EU in a hard, ‘no-deal’ Brexit in March. Prime Minister Theresa May will be squarely responsible.
It is her imperviousness to advice and disregard for everything that does not tally with her views, that have led to chaos in Westminster. On 4 December, for the first time in British history a government was found in contempt of Parliament. MPs voted 311 to 293 against the government for failing to disclose to Parliament legal advice it had received on Brexit. This may have been the first time Parliament censured government for contempt, but Theresa May herself has a long track record of disregard of Parliament, the rule of law, of her own government and of the British people.
She displayed disdain of Parliament and rule of law already in 2016 when she refused to consult Parliament before triggering Article 50, the two-year process of separating from the EU now coming to a hard end. Gina Miller had to take the PM to the High Court in London and then to the Supreme Court before Theresa May accepted that it was not her prerogative to decide when and how Britain should leave the EU.
Since then the PM has repeatedly shown disdain also for the 3.6million EU citizens living in the UK, calling them “citizens of nowhere” or “queue jumpers”, ignoring the invaluable contribution that EU citizens make to the NHS, British universities, science and the country’s economy in general.
The PM’s attitude became evident at the very start of her government, when she surrounded herself with a small coterie of toxic minions, brought over from the Home Office, who quickly proceeded to cut her off from all other source of advice, including from industry, the civil service and the rest of her own cabinet. Decisions were made with utter hubris and in splendid isolation. This inevitably led to poor and uninformed judgement. Her own ministers were treated with no respect. They were consistently handled like misbehaving children. In July 2018, at a crucial Brexit juncture, cabinet ministers were convened to Chequers, the PM’s countryside residence, to be instructed on the PM’s cunning Brexit plan. They were dispossessed of their mobile phones and threatened to have their official cars taken away for the return journey to London if they failed to toe the line.
The PM showed disdain for the whole electorate when she refused to campaign in the unnecessary general election of 2017, when she lost her party’s parliamentary majority. This forced her to enter into a demeaning and unreliable ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
That Theresa May was a poor choice for Prime Minister should have been clear to all based on her track record at the Home Office: a litany of failures, from dramatically increased knife violence in London to the ‘Windrush’ scandal. On the very same day when she was found in contempt of Parliament, the UK National Audit Office revealed that it had “credible information” about possible injustices perpetrated during Theresa May’s tenure as home secretary. Under Theresa May, the Home Office ignored warning signs of the looming Windrush scandal and pursued ‘hostile environment’ policies towards foreign migrants without considering the consequences.
Just as worryingly, it is under her watch that expressions such as ‘enemies of the people’, ‘saboteurs’ and ‘citizens of nowhere’ entered the vocabulary of British political and (un)civil discourse. This is not what the UK is all about or stands for. Britain is the country that gave the world Parliamentary democracy, rule of law and freedom of expression and its prime minister should be the staunchest champion of these core values, not their first detractor.
Theresa May has not only undermined core British values, but her poor and blinkered decisions have taken the country to the very unenviable place where it is now. From being the fastest growing economy of the EU in 2016, Britain has become the worst performing EU economy bar Italy, according to a recent report by the IMF. From being a model democracy inspiring the whole English-speaking world, it is now a highly polarised society facing a no-deal chaotic Brexit.
It is true that the incompetence in her government was not her prerogative, many colourful characters, such as former ministers Boris Johnson or David Davies, have taken a stab at championing Brexit only to give up and resign at the first adversities. But it is Theresa May who holds ultimate responsibility for her government’s actions and it is her unilateral, uninformed and wanton decisions that have brought Britain to its current predicament. All her acts or pronouncements were mistakes, from the meaningless statements that she parroted for a year, such as “Brexit means Brexit” or “no deal is better than a bad deal”, to her three ‘red lines’, all of which have been breached by now.
Theresa May perhaps committed the gravest act of omission was when she triggered Article 50 in March 2017, precipitating the two-year exit process, before she conducted the barest assessment of the impact that Brexit would have on Britain and without any semblance of a negotiating strategy.
Unlike other leading Brexiteers who dissipated when faced with adversity, the Prime Minister holds ultimate responsibility and cannot simply walk away. Now that the British Parliament is finally finding its voice on Brexit, Theresa May should listen to that voice and deliver what Parliament eventually decides is in the nation’s best interest, whether her deal, a ‘no-deal Brexit’ or a second referendum.
Ivo Ilic Gabara is a media strategist, former journalist and EU citizen resident in the UK