The long-running BBC quiz show ‘Mastermind’ has a famous phrase – “I’ve started so I’ll finish” – to signify that the quiz master has begun to put the final question to the current contestant but will finish asking it so that he or she can complete the challenge. In Theresa May’s case it’s the other way around, she has started the challenge of leaving the EU and is determined to finish although everyone can see it will be a low-scoring round. The next contestants are eager for their turn.
A third of her party has asked the Prime Minister to leave the contest now and let a more suitable candidate take up the task. She behaves as though she believes it is her duty to complete the job she has been doing so badly for two and a half years – her answer is the best we’re going to get so let her wrap up the deal with a little sweetener (no cherries) to help us swallow it without gagging. It’s a terrible deal that will make many of us vomit, it needn’t have been so bad if a better player had been in the hot seat.
She answered every question wrongly – zero points. For six months, with her Chancellor’s support, she did nothing to prepare for a poor outcome to the negotiations such as she has now got. Her backstop should have been a plan for ‘no deal’, in plain sight of Barnier and the Commission so that they would seek a less harmful outcome for the EU. Instead she exposed the UK’s situation as being weak, despite chanting “No deal is better than a bad deal” at frequent intervals, so they felt empowered to find a harmful outcome for the UK.
She set up a department to manage the plan and the negotiations but then set up a parallel and more empowered team within her own office, wasting resources and the patience of two Ministers supposed to be in charge of the job. She wasted a further nine months by agreeing to a wholly unnecessary staging of negotiations that would give us no visibility of an emerging deal until we had agreed to pay (for nothing) and cede UK territory indefinitely for spurious reasons.
Yet another year gone by and she has a draft agreement that the overwhelming majority of the public and MPs think is worse than being either in or out of the EU. ‘Nil pwa‘ as they say in Spain (and in the Eurovision Song Contest for a particularly bad competitor).
Mother Theresa May has a better duty to perform than weakening Britain’s future, she should return to looking after her constituents, a job she does conscientiously. But who would then take her place and what would they attempt to achieve? If her successor really believed that no deal was better than her bad deal they would urgently prepare for that outcome. It is unlikely that the EU would blockade the UK, refusing to allow planes to fly, medicines to be delivered or the many threats that have been muted, some side deals are likely to avoid calamities affecting everyone and destroying the EU’s reputation throughout the world, including amongst its own people. From there they would seek to agree a trade deal, probably beginning with the Canadian-EU template (CETA) and in the meantime WTO rules would prevent the more egregious actions that Remainers threaten from being enacted by the EU. We’ll drink to that.
So what if a Remainer took the helm instead, perhaps May’s deputy David Lidington (who’s heard of him and his achievements)? Leavers are constantly told they don’t have a plan as part of the attempt to undermine their credibility, but they do as we have just explained. We would like to ask Lidington – or whichever Remainer PM takes over – for theirs; in particular:
- What are your plans if the EU divides because of single-currency stresses: Which half should we remain in? What if the EU collapses altogether?
- Do you support Britain becoming part of a federal superstate? If not, what are your plans to avoid it?
- Do you believe the EU requires reform to meet its potential (or even to survive)? If so, how can this be achieved without there being any existing processes to respond?
- Should we join the euro at some point? If not, how can we remain at the ‘heart of Europe’ and exercise our full weight in its corridors and committees of power?
- Should we allow the EU to determine our tax rates, so further levelling its playing fields? If not, how do we ensure we get an opt out?
- Should we accept immigration quotas?
- Should we join an EU Defence Force? If so, will the others pay their share? Will the common forces be deployed if we ask when our national interests are threatened?