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Analysis

8 more u-turns from flip-flop queen

by Hugo Dixon | 23.09.2017

Theresa May made a string of climb-downs in her Florence speech. In the process she’s destroying case for Brexit. No wonder Nigel Farage and his acolytes are panicking.

InFacts has counted no fewer than eight new u-turns.

(1) Brexit on ice for two more years

The prime minister used to say she could reach an ambitious new deal with the EU as well as complete our divorce in the two years allowed under Article 50 of the EU treaty. That was always pie in the sky. Now May has called for a transitional deal of “around two years”, taking us to March 2021, during which we’ll follow the EU’s rules and regulations.

The prime minister said the precise length of the transition should be determined by how long it will take to implement the new deal. It’s doubtful two years will be enough. Don’t be surprised if she flip-flops again and extends it to three.

(2) Money for transition

May used to say that “the days of Britain making vast contributions to the European Union every year will end.” Now she has promised the other EU countries won’t be out of pocket during the rest of the seven-year budget cycle. That will cost about £18 billion.

(3) Money for past commitments

The prime minister has also pledged to “honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership.” That could add another £36 billion to our divorce bill, if we go with what the EU is demanding. Even if we split the difference, it would be another £18 billion.

(4) Money for future access

May says she wants to take part in the EU’s science, education, culture and security programmes and would “make an ongoing contribution to cover our fair share of the costs involved”. She refused to say whether she’d also pay for access to the EU’s vast single market.

(5) No blackmail over EU security

When the prime minister triggered Article 50 on March 29, she wrote that “failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.” She seemed to be threatening to stop working with the EU to catch terrorists if it didn’t agree to a trade deal.

In Florence, she was all sweetness and light, stating that the UK “is unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security.”

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(6) No threat to become Singapore

In her Lancaster House speech on 17 January, May said “we would be free to change the basis of Britain’s economic model,” if we couldn’t get access to the single market. May’s spin doctors briefed that this meant becoming a Singapore-style tax haven. In Florence, the prime minister said we won’t “try and attain an unfair competitive advantage”.

(7) Bye-bye “no deal is better than a bad deal”?

At Lancaster House, May said: “no deal… is better than a bad deal”. Given that crashing out of the EU would be bonkers, it is good she hasn’t repeated these words.

The prime minister now says that no deal would be a “failure in the eyes of history and a damaging blow to the future of our continent… so great that it is beholden on all of us involved to demonstrate the leadership and flexibility needed to ensure that we succeed.”

(8) ECJ by any other name

May said at Lancaster House that, when we quit the EU, “we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.” By last month she was only calling for an end to its “direct” jurisdiction.

In Florence, she made a further concession, saying she wanted the UK courts “to be able to take into account the [ECJ’s] judgements” in determining how the rights of EU citizens living in the UK would be guaranteed. Given that the EU wants the ECJ to be the “ultimate guarantor” of these rights, expect May to make yet more concessions.

Some of the prime minister’s earlier statements were unnecessarily provocative; others failed to recognise that we need the EU more than it needs us. So it is good that May is gradually eating her words.

That said, it is sad to see our proud nation being humbled at the negotiating table. Isn’t it time we realised that we have been one of the EU’s most influential members and that none of these climb-downs would be needed if we called the whole Brexit malarkey off?

Edited by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

3 Responses to “8 more u-turns from flip-flop queen”

  • Re 7
    I heard her explicitly confirm that “No deal is better than a bad deal” answering a question by Laura K from BBC. Or not?

  • So what will businesses do during this 2 year delay? Will manufacturers invest without knowing what the future holds? Will the banks and financial institutions put a hold on their plans to relocate? Or will they continue what they have started but at a more leisurely pace? What about the ‘little folk’ who’s lives are linked to the EU in some way? Will their lives and planning just be put on hold until some superior body deigns to make a definite decision? Job security, stability in the home and regional locations? While the likes of Rees Mogg. IDS, Johnson, Gove and others discuss ideology (and can afford to) the population at large suffer.