Brits want very different things. May can't please them allby Martha Gill / April 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
It’s been nine difficult months, but the government has finally delivered. On 29th March, at 12.28pm, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, tweeted he had received a letter notifying him of Britain’s exit from the European Union. “What can I add to this?” he wrote, “we already miss you.” It will be two years before we see how Europe puts that sentiment into effect.
Addressing the Commons later that day, Theresa May—with trademark ice-maiden delivery—talked of a future of sunlit uplands. “We all want to see a Britain that is stronger than it is today,” she told MPs. “We all want a country that is fairer so that everyone has the chance to succeed. We all want a nation that is safe and secure for our children and grandchildren. We all want to live in a truly global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world.” Her aim, she said, is no less than a deal satisfying “every single person in this country”—“young and old, rich and poor, city, town, country, and all the villages and hamlets in between.”
Little chance of that. Leaving aside the 48 per cent of voters who did not want to part from the EU (and have since shown few signs of warming to the idea), and some 6 per cent of “Leave” voters who say they regret their choice, it will be surprising if Brexit satisfies anyone. Because even committed Leavers want very different things—and it’s not merely that they disagree with one another. What many of them would most like is for Britain to somehow duck the real-world choices that we now inescapably confront.
May’s main job in the next two years will be salvaging as many EU privileges as she can, while delivering the clamp-down on immigration she has promised. European officials insist she won’t get very far with that. And one thing, they say, is certain: Britain cannot trade freely with Europe while blocking its citizens at the border.
Yet voters count on her squaring this circle. A NatCen Social Research poll shows Leavers favour tougher limits on EU migrants, but also wanted EU privileges, such as free trade, clean seawater, and cheap mobile phone coverage. Perhaps most…