Sunday, February 12, 2017

Superb Article by Dan Hodges on the PM's negotiating position on Brexit

Theresa May is determined to implement the public's decision on Brexit and to get the best deal she can for the UK while doing so.
But she is not, and never has been, one of those on either side who takes a rigid ideological line on the issue.
There is an excellent article in the Mail by Dan Hodges on the subject. Here are some extracts:
"There was no triumphalism in No.10. Instead, the events of last week are being seen as a victory born of necessity, rather than ideology.
"May is perplexed at suddenly finding herself the darling of Eurosceptics. Speaking to her inner circle before a meeting with leading Tory rebels, she remarked: ‘I don’t understand it. I voted Remain. Why do they think I’ve suddenly become some crazed Brexiteer?’
"Those who have become fixated by her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mantra, forget that Brexit did not always mean Brexit to May. 
Indeed, her ambiguity on the matter prior to the referendum infuriated David Cameron, who told his staff he believed she was working the political angles on the issue to position herself for a future leadership challenge.
Of course, if that was her strategy, it succeeded spectacularly. But the reality is more complicated. May was advised by one of her chief strategists, Nick Timothy, to back Brexit for precisely the reasons outlined by Cameron. But following a long heart-to-heart with her husband Philip, she adopted a more pragmatic approach. The economic dangers, the potential impact on national security co-operation, and the practical difficulties of constructing ‘fortress Britain’ on immigration persuaded her to stick with the Government’s line.
It is that same pragmatism that will guide her approach to Brexit in the coming months – and that last week found her expressing exasperation at the fundamentalists from the Leave and Remain camps.
May privately supported a number of the principles set out in the rebel amendments. But she believed it would be disastrous for her negotiating strategy if she was seen by fellow European leaders to have suffered a series of embarrassing defeats on the issue.
‘If they think the House of Commons is driving the negotiating position, then Europe will just ignore her,’ an ally explained. ‘Her position throughout all this has been: “I can’t be seen to be negotiating with one hand tied behind my back.”’
To many observers, the bottom line for those negotiations was drawn last month when the Prime Minister set out her 12-point plan for Britain’s departure, including an end to free movement, membership of the Single Market and membership of the customs union.
But May retains greater flexibility than is popularly perceived. Yes, if Europe proves intransigent then she is perfectly prepared to walk away from the table, but that is not her preferred option. She has no desire to see a reversion to World Trade Organisation tariffs, for example, or to leave British business operating in a trade vacuum. ‘I’m not going to just jump off a cliff,’ she has told friends.
For opponents of Brexit, May’s announcement that she would trigger Article 50 by March at the latest was further evidence of intoxication through exposure to Eurosceptic Tories. But her primary concern is not of Brexit proceeding too precipitously, but at a pace that is too sluggish for the British people.
‘Her view is that the public wants us to just get on with this now,’ says a No. 10 insider. ‘But she’s also aware that negotiations are going to take around two years. The danger as she sees it, is that we come back and say, “Here’s the dealand people say, “What, you mean you haven’t finished this thing yet?”’
To May’s critics, this will all fall on deaf ears. 
For them the mask has finally dropped, and a true blue-in-tooth-and-claw Europhobe stands before them. They point to her attempt to block Parliament from voting on Article 50, and the protracted – if doomed – effort to contest the Gina Miller court case.

Maybe. But following the events of the past week, Remainers of all political persuasions need to do less finger-pointing, and a bit more soul-searching.
Regardless of the constitutional niceties, the decision to force a Commons vote on Article 50 has proved to be a catastrophic own goal by Brexit’s opponents.
The Leavers have been vindicated. The Labour Party – home to the bulk of the Brexit opposition – is in total disarray. Tory Remainers have been marginalised. There is now a clear parliamentary mandate for an expedient departure from the EU, one the Lords dare not challenge.
It is the Remainers, not the Leavers, who appear to have been attempting to defy the democratic will of the people. And crucially, May has been backed so far into a corner, she has been given no option but to make common cause with Brexit’s true believers.
She now needs to be freed from that corner. When the Prime Minister says: ‘I’m not a crazed Brexiteer’, she is telling the truth. Behind the negotiating stance she does not crave a hard Brexit, so much as a fair Brexit.
When she said in her New Year message that she would seek the ‘right deal, not just for those who voted to leave, but for every single person in this country’, she meant it. And she now needs to be given the space to deliver it.
Those who opposed Brexit have had their moment. They have had their day in court, and they have had their day in Parliament. They have tried – and failed – to save the country from a hard Brexit.
Now they need to step back and leave it to the only person who can. Theresa May.

You can read the whole article at:

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