Mrs. May is of course the Remain leader of a majority Remain cabinet. However, she has claimed that Brexit means Brexit and has promised to strike a good deal with the EU that will enable us to leave and take back control of our laws, trade, finances and borders. Her Lancaster House speech set out her priorities and even declared that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.
That is not, however, something she repeats today. Having lost an election (or at least her parliamentary majority) she cannot afford to upset her Remain back-benchers and cabinet colleagues. Nor does she ever admit that if there were a second referendum she would actually back Brexit. However, we are given to understand that the cabinet is working on a plan which will contain its ideas on the deal required for us to leave next year. So far all we know is that she has made concession after concession to the EU over our exit fee, free movement and Ireland. At present the cabinet is trying to decide on a customs deal and is bitterly divided. Two plans are being discussed–almost publicly–although the EU has said it will reject both. Still, Mrs. May carries on regardless. Does she care about the outcome?
Recently we have learned that the government has accepted a European Council invitation to participate in negotiations on the EU budget running up to 2027. Why? Presumably we are going to have to make regular contributions. But on what basis? It also turns out that the Electoral Commission has been given £829,000 to use for next year’s European parliamentary elections. These take place two months after we are supposed to have left the EU. So why worry about holding them? There are also rumours that May will agree to the UK remaining within the European Customs Union to solve the Irish border problem or at least agree to a ‘regulatory alignment’ with it which will mean Brexit in name only. What there are no rumours about, is any plan to reject EU intimidation and walk away citing ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. In fact one civil servant the other day helpfully disclosed that preparations for any such contingency had run into the ground and were practically non-existent. This in turn might explain why despite a promise by the government last October that between 3,000 and 5,000 new customs officers would be hired to deal with Brexit, the latest figures show that their number has dropped by 3,000. And May herself told Jacob Rees-Mogg that trading by WTO rules would damage the economy.
So does she plan to leave at all? Has she given up on ‘Brexit means Brexit’? Does she figure she has no parliamentary majority for Brexit any longer since her peculiarly disastrous election campaign? Who knows?Most of her cabinet colleagues say they have no idea what she thinks. I am not even sure that she does or can think. She is clearly out of her depth and floundering, yet the backbench Tories seem in no hurry to ditch her. That is why we need the Clean Brexit Party.