The PM's post-Salzburg bluster can’t hide the fact she’s got nothing, has achieved nothing, has done nothingby Jay Elwes / September 21, 2018 / Leave a comment
When it was announced that Theresa May’s statement today would be delayed due to a “lack of power” in No10, Twitter chortled at what sounded like an omen. But when the prime minister appeared, she was in no mood for gags.
Fresh from her appalling humiliation in Salzburg, where EU leaders took it in turns to excoriate the weakness and unworkability of her Brexit plan, May gave a terse statement, whose brevity and naked aggression expressed with ringing eloquence the depth of her personal defeat.
Make no mistake, Salzburg was a terrible, complete and resounding failure for May. Her great plan, the absurdly-named “Chequers Deal,” was laughed out of town. It was her one chance, and it ended in diplomatic catastrophe. She returned home with that unmistakable whiff of political loser, not a great look for a PM heading into conference season. Under the lights she glared out like a hanging judge.
“Yesterday Donald Tusk said our proposals would undermine the single market,” May said, her voice dripping with animus. “He didn’t explain how in any detail or make any counter-proposal. So,” she said, “we are at an impasse,” perhaps unconsciously slipping into French.
“At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals,” said May, ignoring the fact that this was precisely what she was doing in the very speech she was delivering.
“I will not overturn the result of the referendum,” she said, “nor will I break up my country,” striking a note of real anguish that not even the rictus expression could hide.
That anguish is understandable. What May must now see is that her last chance to be the one who finally cracked Brexit has gone. Two years have elapsed since that referendum, and in all that time the government has hopped up and down on the spot, telling all-comers that it is determined to get the best deal for Britain.
And, cruel irony, the moment that a plan finally does surface—the “Chequers deal”—the cabinet nearly falls apart because of it, her party rejects it and the EU finally kills it dead in a public diplomatic slaying.
Which means that Theresa May, and therefore the government, for which read Britain, has no plan. There is nothing there.
Aware of this vacuum, May insisted that…