The media has, as expected, gone into full meltdown over Theresa May’s address from No. 10 Downing Street yesterday. Some have called it a “Full blown U-turn in policy.” Others, “A firm stance against the hardline Brexiteers.”
While the tone of her rhetoric was certainly positive, openly calling for unity rather than division, it is worth remembering who said these words: Theresa Bloody May. For a vicar’s daughter, her promises are about as Gospel as the writings according to St. Rodney of Grimsby.
…As in they are non-existent, just in case there was any doubt.
(Before we begin, here is the explanation for today’s article’s headline. It’s a lovely listen, and might make the following slightly less depressing if you have it on in the background.)
What Happened Yesterday?
Not a huge amount by the breakneck standards of Brexit. Whereas on normal days, we seem to be haring towards oblivion at breakneck speed while listening to AC/DC at full blast, yesterday was more of a leisurely sojourn towards a tar pit while listening to Smooth FM at half-volume.
There was a distinct lack of Meaningful Votes in our lives yesterday, which absolutely everyone save May herself was grateful for.
Her cabinet, however, were probably somewhat less grateful to her. Yesterday morning they entered a cabinet meeting and surrendered their phones to try and dam the steady stream of leaks that have seemed to pour out of seemingly every cabinet meeting. They finally appeared out of Downing Street at around 6.30pm.
Imagine, just imagine, being stuck in a room with Theresa May for a whole day. It almost makes me want to forgive the horrendously divided, totally ineffective cabinet for everything they’ve collectively put us through.
In the end, Theresa May eventually scuttled up from her cave under No. 10 to address her screaming fans (and not screaming in a good way). In a short statement, she:
- Indicated that she would not allow us to crash out of the EU with no-deal next Friday;
- Would instead ask the EU for an extension that would not exceed the 22nd of May – i.e. an extension to resolve these issues, but not long enough that we would have to participate in voting in MEPs for the European Parliament elections;
- Offered a new strategy, which was to offer an olive-branch to Jeremy Corbyn. She said that she wanted to find a compromise that both sides of the House of Commons could agree on, thereby ensuring Brexit was confirmed at the earliest possible date.
That Sounds Promising! After a Whole Day Of Talking With Her Cabinet, She’s Found a Way Through…
Yeeeaaahhhh. ‘Sounds’ promising, doesn’t it?
You could, however, write a book of caveats to her address.
1. We Don’t Know What Her Cabinet Thinks.
By seemingly acquiescing to the soft-Brexit / Remain part of her cabinet, she has ostracised the hard-right / Brexiteer group. Famously, these Brexiteers tend to be people who can understand a rational viewpoint besides their own, see the error of their ways, and try to find a constructive way to move discussions forward.
Oh wait no, the opposite of that. The complete opposite of that.
Leave.EU, the group responsible for the Leave campaign for the referendum and who were recently confirmed to have illegally rigged the entire referendum debate through overspending, has said that it will target all MPs who fail to honour the referendum result and try to get UKIP members in instead.
This was their Tweet after May’s speech:
“Pathetic cowardice! May effectively rules out leaving without her disastrous deal, extending Article 50 indefinitely until she and Jeremy Corbyn have agreed a watered-down Brexit In Name Only.
Expect resignations. ERG, it’s time to bring this government down!”
Cool, nice one.
With this level of rational thought being the driving force behind a number of Conservative MPs, we’ll probably see a pretty sizeable fallout within cabinet from her decision yesterday.
And a whole lot of very angry people frothing at the mouth from outside government.
2. What If Talks With Corbyn Fail?
What if indeed. This outcome is highly likely.
Corbyn has said that he understands his ‘responsibility’ to answer her call, but whether or not the two will get along after years of open hostility remains to be seen.
By which I mean one of them might literally kill the other rather than find a common strategy.
3. What About Indicative Votes?
These are happening today. If a majority is found as a result of these votes and talks with Corbyn fail, then May said that she would honour the result of indicative votes. This was, presumably, referring to an inferred preference towards a customs union rather than a second referendum because one delivers a form of Brexit and the other doesn’t… but frankly we just don’t know.
Basically, if a second referendum wins, May is facing an absolute nightmare. It is no longer hyperbole to suggest that it might even destroy the entire Conservative Party.
4. What About the EU?
Rumour has it that the EU is pretty unimpressed with her latest Wheeler-Dealer-Geezer-Theresa move.
Upon granting us a short extension at the EU summit, they definitively said that if her deal didn’t pass (and one glorious result of today seems to be that May has, finally, accepted that it will never pass, RIP May’s deal) they would need to have a clear indication as to how the UK intended to proceed before granting another extension, which would have to be a long one.
For May to ask for another short extension to enable talks that have about the same chance of being a success as Kanye West at a humility convention is a big old finger in the eye to Tusk and his chums.
As tolerant as the EU has been to the UK’s inability to find a strategy (outwardly, at least), they may well tell her to absolutely do one.
At this stage, that might actually appease some Brexiteers who are furious with her, because even the enemy don’t agree with her now.
Which might make them like the EU more, but probably won’t, because we live in a world where nothing makes sense anymore.
So Not As Good As We Thought, Then. What Fresh Hell Do We Endure Today?
MOAR INDICATIVE VOTES!
Hopefully MPs will have learnt their lessons from the other day and might actually try to form a real consensus. For all of the flaws in May’s statement, there was, for once, a genuine tone of conciliation, too – this might help to persuade MPs from across the House to listen to their counterparts from the opposite bench.
Additionally, Yvette Cooper, the eternal Lego brick under Theresa May’s bare foot, has tabled a motion for today that would ensure under UK law that the PM would have to rule out no-deal next Friday. Given May said that she wouldn’t allow that to happen in her statement, you might think that this motion might not be moved (i.e. voted on) because the PM has already addressed it.
But, having watched Cooper for the last three months, you could probably assume that she trusts May to be about as true to her word as anyone would trust a puppy to guard a sausage if you left it in their food-bowl.
We might, finally, see some progress by the end of today. Alternatively, we might end up in an even more ambiguous position.
At this stage, who even knows anymore?
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