The government’s latest Brexit proposal is as deranged as anything it has put forward in the past three yearsby Jonathan Lis / April 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
Wouldn’t it be nice if just for once, our prime minister acted in the national interest? If she asked something of the EU that was not motivated by devotion to her defeated red lines, short-term self-interest or terror of her backbenches?
Alas, not this time. On Friday Theresa May wrote her latest letter to European Council president Donald Tusk, requesting an extension to Article 50 for the second time. The deadline of 29th March, upon which May insisted more than a hundred times, may as well never have existed. Rather, she now insists on a new date, which is equally unrealistic, and which has already been rejected by the EU: 30th June.
This being Theresa May, we should have expected nothing less. When her negotiating partners asked her for seriousness and respect, she gave them tricks and self-delusion. The 30th of June is a nonsensical deadline in almost every sense. It gives us no time to hold a general election, or second referendum, or to re-evaluate the terms of our exit in any meaningful way. It barely gives time for parliament to agree on a new political declaration on the future relationship, negotiate it with the EU and put it into UK law.
It makes no political sense even on May’s own terms. The prime minister proposed that date last month as she was advised it was the latest possible moment to avoid European elections. That is because the new European Parliament only begins its term on 1st July. But the European heads of government disagreed with that reasoning, and decided that the UK would need to participate in the actual elections, on 23rd May, if we were still members on that day. May had to concede the point.
And so the PM now finds herself, extraordinarily, proposing that we might conduct a nationwide six-week campaign for those elections, and duly vote for the new MEPs, but all with the express proviso that none of them will ever take up their seats. This is now literally government policy, and as deranged as anything it has proposed in the last three years.
The further we move towards Brexit, the profounder the cynicism becomes. May knows full well that it would be absurd to elect MEPs who will never claim their seats. She knows too…