The prime minister has only herself to blame for the unnecessary Brexit horror that is unfoldingby Jonathan Lis / July 4, 2018 / Leave a comment
One week before last year’s general election, Theresa May warned the nation that if it made Jeremy Corbyn prime minister, he would “find himself alone and naked in the negotiating chamber of the European Union.” Voters instead opted to send Theresa May into that chamber alone and fully clothed. She could scarcely have achieved less if she had decided not to go in at all.
Leavers and Remainers can all agree: last week’s European Council summit was a disaster. For the first time since October, when the EU27 declined to conclude the first phase of negotiations, May left Brussels with nothing. This in itself is devastating. That the national conversation deemed it unworthy of significant comment or surprise makes it even more so.
It is worth recapping what the negotiation sequencing was intended to achieve. Having triggered Article 50 prematurely, then wasted the first three months on a disastrous general election, the prime minister was desperate to end 2017 with a conclusion to the first phase. That is, to resolve the issues of money, citizens’ rights and Ireland at the December summit. Initially she refused to make a single guarantee on any, and in the end agreed to everything the EU demanded on all three. In March, she submitted further by giving up any pretence that we could deviate from EU rules during a transition period. We would not, after all, “end free movement of people” in 2019.
She made all of these entirely predictable concessions so that she would be able to begin negotiating the famous trade deal: the most complex and comprehensive trade agreement in world history, other than the EU single market itself. This, she and Brexit Secretary David Davis assured us, would be agreed by October 2018 and ready to sign off on Brexit day. The two years after Brexit would constitute an “implementation” period to bring this deal to fruition. No matter that even bog-standard trade deals can take seven or more years to agree; this one would be easy.
Nothing—not a single thing—has worked out as the prime minister planned or promised. The recent June summit, which many once expected to produce the flesh and bones of the final deal and future direction, ended in deadlock. The trade deal has not only not been agreed, but preliminary negotiations have not even…