Today British Prime Minister Theresa May delivered her keenly awaited speech outlining the British approach to Brexit negotiations and what were her hopes and expectations for the UK and the EU.
Before I give my verdict, I ought to lay my own cards on the table. As I have made clear in earlier blogs, I am and have always have been a euro-skeptic. Since the shock result of the EU referendum, June 2016, I have if anything been even more of the view that leaving the EU is the right thing for the UK to do, and the sooner the better. That is because the EU vision, recently made clearer by politicians like Merkel and Macron and bureaucrats like Juncker and Tusk, for greater integration, open borders and central control and its further move toward globalism, has become even more evident, and it is a far cry from my own one of a strong national identity, making our own laws, having leaders that are accountable, controlling our own borders and getting rid of needless bureaucracy. Following the EU referendum and seeing the popularist support in the USA for Donald Trump and his “make America great” and attack on globalism agenda it has emboldened me. I fear a world that buys into globalism, which superficially seems so attractive. Those who benefit are the elite few, with the rest ending up as enslaved. This is coupled with frustration – 15 months after the referendum little progress has been made in negotiating a divorce settlement and providing clarity on what life is going to be like after we leave.
I really wanted to give Mrs May the benefit of the doubt, despite some of her earlier set backs, not least her poor showing in the recent General Election. I had rather hoped her speech would help me to be more confident in her ability as our country’s leader. That Brexit negotiations have not been going well overall is all too evident if the media is to be believed. The picture I see is too often that of bullying EU bureaucrats overwhelming our own leaders and their ineffectual professional negotiation team. Boris Johnson’s article over the weekend, where the foreign secretary laid out his vision for leave, which was at odds with that of the Prime Minister despite it being played down, and leaks from the speech merely added to my concerns. Large amounts of money were spoken about as our contribution to the divorce settlement with a period following our exiting the EU where we would still come under the EU. None of this made me feel comfortable. I am all for paying our dues providing this is reciprocated. I am all for close as reasonably can be expected cooperation, including trading, with EU members. We need to leave as soon as possible and no deal is better than a bad deal. We should reject the notion the EU calls the shots – we do! Moreover, I would want us to be very clear concerning replacing what we lose by leaving the EU, including our having new trade deals with existing EU partners and outside of the EU, and tying up all the loose ends.
When I listened to Mrs May earlier today, she sounded like a typical politician. It struck me she wanted to please everyone but I was left in the end wondering who she did please, and if that included the people who voted to leave the EU. I suspect the remainers might also be dissatisfied as they look upon the end game. Rightly, she wanted to appear reasonable and conciliatory to other EU members, and honourable and responsible when it comes to the UK doing the right thing, but seemed to say little that was of substance and what I reckoned to be hopeful. Reading between the lines, what she did say felt to me like a capitulation and doing something approaching what the EU leaders want us to do rather than carrying out the wishes of the majority who voted for a straight-forward exit, with two years more than enough time to tie up loose ends and agree a divorce settlement, hopefully amicable but if not a settlement none the less. Unless she is playing good cop and leading the EU into a trap so the UK can escape as winners, a nice thought but somehow I doubt it.
It is now a matter of wait and see, but I am not hopeful that there will be an outcome that I would see as satisfactory, and with the discontents, such as those that in the recent past voted UKIP, once again making their voices heard. Not a conclusion I was hoping to make to be sure, but this is how I see it. I hope I am wrong and it will turn out well in the end, but my confidence in politicians to deliver remains low. I await upon developments with interest.