Leadsom is best chance to stay in EU – but at huge cost

by Hugo Dixon | 08.07.2016

Theresa May voted Remain. Her leadership rival, Andrea Leadsom, voted Leave. Paradoxically, a victory by the energy minister is the best opportunity to stay in the EU because she could tank the economy and split the Tories, paving the way for a u-turn.

Leadsom has only two years’ experience as a junior minister. Her much vaunted financial expertise isn’t what it is cracked up to be either.

Meanwhile, Leadsom says she would trigger Article 50, starting formal divorce talks, as soon as she became prime minister. Given her inexperience and that she doesn’t seem to have a Brexit plan, there is a risk that she would press the button without knowing what she was doing.

A Leadsom government would be so keen on stopping the right of EU citizens to come to Britain that it would probably end up with only minimal access to the single market, which is responsible for nearly half our trade. That would be bad for trade and investment.

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    Leadsom might well get into a confrontation with Mark Carney, too. After the Bank of England governor warned of the risks of Brexit during the campaign, she said: “He has no evidence for it and that is against his legal remit of impartiality. As an ex-Goldman Sachs banker Carney knew exactly what he was doing. He has encouraged financial instability and I think that absolutely damages the reputation of the Bank.”

    Her promise of a “great deal of fiscal stimulus” is also potentially worrying. How would she pay for it?

    Inexperience, pressing the button without a plan, minimal access to the single market, a confrontation with the Bank of England and promises of a big fiscal stimulus could be an explosive cocktail as far as markets were concerned. The pound would probably take another dive.

    Meanwhile, Leadsom doesn’t have that much support among MPs, securing the backing of only 84 compared to May’s 199. That doesn’t mean she is destined to lose the battle to be next prime minister, as this is determined by Conservative Party activists who tend to be more right-wing than MPs.

    But, if Leadsom wins, she could end up as the Tories’ Jeremy Corbyn – a leader popular with party members but not MPs. Some Conservative Remain MPs could get particularly angry given her ties to UKIP.

    Since the Tories have a majority of only 16 in parliament, Leadsom could lose control. She might have to resign. The Conservatives could even split. There might then be new elections or a second referendum on whether to stay in the EU. None of this would be likely under May, who is a safe pair of hands.

    Of course, if Leadsom did cause chaos but had by then triggered Article 50, we might still be on the conveyor belt to quit. On the other hand, it might be possible to revoke the notification. Legal opinion is split on the matter.

    But even if all this did happen – quite a lot of “ifs” – hanging on in the EU in such a way is not something to be desired.

    The headline was changed from “best bet” to “best chance” shortly after publication

    Edited by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

    4 Responses to “Leadsom is best chance to stay in EU – but at huge cost”

    • And like Mr Johnson, she’s an awful fibber. Or maybe fantasist – given the liberties she seems to take with the actualite

    • On the other hand, she has the dogmatism and deficit of intelligence to drive us headlong towards WTO rules with nothing else even in discussion. I’d rather May, who would at least have the sense to mitigate the damage if not prevent it.

    • Poor choice of headline I think. Misleading and not representative.
      It does however draw attention to the lack of experience which has certainly been demonstrated in today’s Times article.

    • Leadsom is more prone to UKIP than May, and division of the tory party.
      May is a safe pair of hands on the Tiller and wont press the button for further political chaos.
      Are these media driven concepts?
      Leadsom in reality will sell the UK as slaves to get trade, and a few crumbs off the table of the well heeled and self serving greedy , tax evading financiers. TTIP will be thrown on the negotiation and privatisation of the NHS as some insignifigant gambling chip under the guise of securing trade and increasing employment.
      likewise these things will happen if May triumphs and becomes PM. she has vested interests in privatisation of prisons and benefits directly from car parking schemes implemented by councils with G4S.
      So its the devil or the deep blue sea.
      what a choice for tories voting for party leadership.