Given that negotiations start ten days after the election, that's a problemby Schona Jolly / June 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
As the lexicon of “strong and stable” is retired due to overuse and undermining U-turns, Theresa May has sought to shift the debate back onto Brexit. The new headline is that only she has a plan for Brexit and the ability to deliver, with the negotiations set to start a mere ten days after the general election. But the headline is entirely without substance and May and her team know this, which is why the public is being treated to yet more platitudes and mechanical sound bites. If there is a plan on the most defining issue in decades, we are yet to see it.
Brexit Secretary David Davis went on the airwaves this week to pronounce that the government has “over 100 pages of detail” on the Brexit plan. As if parody, it then became clear that those meagre 100 pages consist of not much more than the two White Papers we have already seen, “over 6000” words of the prime minister’s Lancaster House speech and a “five page plus letter to the European Union.”
None of those documents, already inadequate, begin to prepare us for the Herculean task that lies ahead. The first White Paper was no more than a set of aspirations. Take its timid assertion on the Irish border for starters; we all hope for the best, but it’s the government’s job to prepare for the worst outcome. The second White Paper was little more than a starting point for discussions and in effect, acknowledged that. We now have less than two years to get this right and that time has been cut into by the prime minister’s own decision to call an election, plunging the civil service into purdah.
“For all May’s talk of strength and clarity, her words and actions have revealed neither”
Lawyers have been warning since before the referendum of the unprecedented legal, constitutional and regulatory complexities that lie ahead. There is no sight of the government’s preparation for any of that. Unpicking 40-plus years of frameworks, even if possible, requires a level of skill and resource that simply hasn’t been made available to the civil service. This week, the Financial Times splashed on the 759 treaties that Britain will need to renegotiate after Brexit “just to…