For the last two years, Theresa May has taken a rather novel approach to the most vital negotiations in the UK’s modern history. She decided not to listen to what the other side were saying, ignoring, for example, their central ‘red lines’ about not breaking up the four pillars or the need for an agreement on the British/Irish border. May also took the view that there was no need to do any preparation or develop any sort of a strategy. When things got tough, she called a pointless election (and blamed the EU). Her government has spent much of its time bombarding the EU with insults or hypocrisy (countries cut in two anyone?). Now, when she finally botched together a sort of a plan, almost two years too late, the EU seems to have rejected it, because it contradicted the red lines they had stated two years ago (seems could be the key word here, of course).
So what’s going on? Here’s my three theories.
Theory one is that May is an undercover Remainer. She herself said in April 2016 ‘Remaining inside the European Union does make us more secure, it does make us more prosperous and it does make us more influential beyond our shores’. As an undercover Remainer she’s decided to trash the negotiations, doing everything as wrong as possible to trap the hard core Brexiters.
You have to admit, the evidence fits. Think about it. She has done no planning at all. In fact, she left it to Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis. That in itself should set all sorts of alarm bells ringing. If you had all their talents at your disposal, what would you ask them to do? Just to make the plot sweeter, she’s dragged Corbyn in, who is now more Brexit than her. Her current impasse is actually a feint, leading all the hard core Brexiters down the garden path (there aren’t actually many hard Brexit MPs and they seem to be in disarray). Now May has them where she wants them, cheering her on, suddenly she’ll...at this part I’m not sure. Announce a flash Norway-style agreement with the EU? A hasty press conference announcing that we aren’t leaving at all (legally possible)? How about a snap general election?
Theory two is that Brexit is all about Corbyn. May is deeply worried that a Corbyn government is going to make a hellish mess of her beautiful British isles, so she is using Brexit to stop him. She fears that Labour, propped up by some sort of cobbled together alliance with some nationalists, would short the pound and break up the UK. To stop Corbyn’s dastardly plans, May’s decided to pre-empt him and do it herself. Using her very own ‘coalition of chaos’, her speeches now short the pound. She is also subtly pushing both Scotland and Northern Ireland closer to leaving the UK, so Corbyn can only get his socialist mits on poor old Wengland.
Theory three is that May has no idea what to do and never had. Not a clue. So she’s blundering on without a plan or a strategy. Though Brexiters love their World War Two analogies, I’ll opt for World War One. Have no fear, General Melchett tells Blackadder, ‘a blind unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through’. Like a general shut away in a chateau, she constantly repeats, over and over, the same tactics expecting a better outcome (and remember it took a Russian to show the world that other approaches were needed). Each time a new plan or way is flagged up, the press wait with bated breath, and out comes the old plan, which is no plan at all.
This, you think, sounds a little too far-fetched. How could you just blunder about making Churchill noises? Well, May, like many PMs before her, went through an education system that breeds confidence in your own abilities, often deeply misplaced. Getting to Downing Street can also breed a certain arrogance. This seems to afflict PMs especially badly when it comes to ‘Europe’ (I use the inverted commas because I’m from Derbyshire, which is in Europe). Remember her predecessor David Cameron admitting his key negotiating tactic was not having a wee? Not preparing in depth, learning the basics of several other European languages, or getting to grips with fellow leaders’ domestic politics. No. Not having a wee is the key.
So we are where we are. If this is her ‘finest hour’, as the Daily Express has labelled it, I’d hate to see it when things go badly. Of course, two of my theories are just silly speculation I made up. Only one of them is true. I’m just not sure which.