Following a particularly long and arduous 45 minutes, I hope I’m not the only one to have emerged from Theresa May’s Brexit speech more confused and incredulous than I went in.
The whole thing was a re-hash of the previous hash sprinkled parsimoniously with new, often contradictory and almost exclusively vacuous statements.
She talked about compromise and ingenuity in coming negotiations and yet left no room for manoeuvre in her stance on, for example, immigration and thus on the single market.
In fact, immigration control was the only “advantage” that was in any sense quantifiable. All that stuff about Global Britain and fancy trade deals and relationships with all and sundry (what stops the UK doing this now?) was nothing more than hot air laced with “British Empire Part 2” vocabulary.
She talked about withdrawing the UK from EU control and yet keeping, enforcing and building upon the rights and rules that the EU has brought us (all of which were voted onto our Statute Book by the UK’s sovereign Parliament, by the way).
She also pledged to put the exit deal to the vote in the Commons and the Lords. That sounds good, doesn’t it? But when questioned about whether, if the vote was “No”, the UK would still be in the EU, there wasn’t a “Yes/No” answer. Amber Rudd has been asked the same question and given the same non-answer.
She maintained that the negotiations with the EU will give us an exit deal that will be just great for the UK. That the EU will bend over backwards in order to accommodate us even if it weakens their own position. Of course that is all mere speculation. Are these “promises” as insubstantial as the one for a vote on the exit deal appears to be?
To flesh this out this sad skeleton as much as possible, she kept using words like: tolerant, open, united and co-operation.
This in a country where foreign nationals have recently been beaten to death in the street, a country wanting (apparently) to lower immigration from the rest of the EU by anything up to 75% (and for what reason exactly? EU nationals resident in the UK are net contributors to the UK economy: fact.). Guess it’s OK for people to wait longer for hospital care, if farmers can’t get their seasonal products harvested to feed us, if it’s harder for elderly people to be cared for…
This in a country so appallingly divided and polarised by the Brexit debate that it appears on course to tear itself apart socially, and commit economic suicide by pulling out of the biggest economic, social and political co-operation in the world. Mrs May talked about an EU disinclination to play nice with the UK being “self-harm”, has she not noticed what’s going on in her own country?
In summary, Theresa May’s speech today offered no new real information aside from confirmation of the suspicion that she will not be looking to stay in the single market, simply “same old, same old”. She offered no explanation for how she will achieve what she has promised, and casually dismissed the lack of a fall-back position or back-up plan.
She continues to sell snake oil to people who are desperate for help with their problems and takes advantage of their desperation and anger to avoid answering any sensible questions about downsides or cost, or even whether snake oil will make their problems go away.