fbpx
Analysis

Cock-up or stitch-up? PM’s offer to UK

by Hugo Dixon | 20.03.2019

A three-month delay to Brexit is too short to achieve anything useful. But that’s precisely what Theresa May has asked the EU for – despite getting neither her Cabinet’s, let alone MP’s approval.

The prime minister mustn’t be allowed to act as a dictator. Sensible ministers, Parliament and the other EU leaders must stop her.

It’s clear why she’s asking the EU for only an extension to the Article 50 process until the end of June. Hardline Brexiters in her Cabinet such as Andrea Leadsom might have resigned if she had asked for anything longer.

The prime minister also thinks a short extension could dragoon Parliament into accepting her miserable deal – precisely because she knows it may be too short to achieve anything useful. She wants to close off the possibility of exploring softer Brexit options or asking the people what they want. Instead, she hopes to present MPs with a choice between her deal and crashing out with no deal at all.

Russian roulette with the nation

There are huge risks to the nation from this brinkmanship. A short extension is not in the EU’s interests – as it merely shifts the cliff edge from the end of March to the end of June. The other leaders may therefore refuse her request when they meet tomorrow and, if she holds tough in the ensuing game of chicken, we could crash out next week.

If the prime minister gets her short extension, there’s a further risk. She would then try to bribe the DUP to back her deal and persuade the Speaker or the Commons to let MPs vote on it yet again. If she got her way, the whole UK would have to slavishly follow EU rules on trade and the single market for as far as the eye can see. But if she failed, we’d be heading for the abyss on June 30.

  Join us at the  

  March 23rd | Noon | Park Lane, London  

Playing Russian roulette with the nation is mad. The 15 ministers who stood up to her last week on the need to take “no deal” off the table must now take another stand. The four full Cabinet ministers, such as Amber Rudd, must tell her that she has no authority to do what she has done because she didn’t even propose it at yesterday’s Cabinet – let alone get their approval.

They should be prepared to go public on this. The prime minister would struggle to sack them. After all, they would not have flouted the doctrine of collective responsibility, as the Cabinet has no agreed position on the issue.

Treating Parliament with contempt

MPs must also say “no” to the prime minister’s dictatorial behaviour. Only last Thursday David Lidington, the prime minister’s deputy, proposed a motion calling for extra time. He said from the dispatch box:

“In the absence of a deal, seeking such a short and, critically, one-off extension [until the end of June] would be downright reckless and completely at odds with the position that this House adopted only last night, making a no-deal scenario far more, rather than less, likely. Not only that, but from everything we have heard from the EU, both in public and in private, it is a proposal it would not accept.”

The actual motion made clear that the deadline for MPs to pass the government’s deal was today. So MPs had every right to believe that the prime minister would now ask for a delay beyond the end of June. Her failure to do so shows contempt for Parliament.

MPs will probably hold an emergency debate on this later today. They must read the prime minister the riot act. And if she then feels she herself needs to resign, as she hinted at today’s prime minister’s questions, so be it. She is Parliament’s servant, not its boss.

Not in the EU’s interests either

The EU should have no truck with this either. They have made clear that they expect the government to come up with a clear purpose to justify any extra time. The only reason given in the prime minister’s letter to Donald Tusk is to have another go at ramming through the Commons a deal which MPs voted resoundingly against last week.

The other leaders should realise that it is far from certain she will succeed. If they give her a short extension, they will therefore have made crashing out of the EU in June pretty likely – something that would be detrimental both to their interests and ours.

The EU should, instead, do one of two things when the leaders meet tomorrow. One option is to tell May to go away and come back within a few days when she hopefully has a plan that her Cabinet and Parliament can sign up to.

Alternatively, they should tell her that they will give her more than three months extra time. They should make clear it has to be used for a useful purpose such as exploring new options, and not to go round and round in circles trying to reopen the notorious “backstop”. They should add that, of course, the UK could leave the EU earlier if, despite expectations, the prime minister can persuade MPs to back her deal.

A huge amount is at stake in the next hours and days. Everybody must do their bit to stop the prime minister’s outrageous behaviour.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

2 Responses to “Cock-up or stitch-up? PM’s offer to UK”

  • Theresa May was not elected as PM by the UK population. She scraped into that position by bribing the extreme right DUP. She is now behaving like a dictator both in her own party and across government. Reversing policy on Brexit is not anti democratic. The referendum was not binding. The crass stupidity of the PM 1) in vowing to honour the result and 2) in invoking Article 50 . She didnt have to do either. Instead she should have set out a plan to discuss the result and decide what to do next.

    Instead she chose to appease right wingers and Nationalists. That special place in Hell is all hers…….

  • She is not going to win another ‘meaningful vote’ because Franciois of the ERG has just announced on Ch 4 that his poxy group will never agree to May’s deal. He was smirking as he arrogantly told Kathy Newman that no deal would mean some disruption but it would be ‘manageable’ and the British ‘people’ would get through it because they were ‘stoic’. Apparently the ERG is ‘all about’ delivering Brexit on time as they promised to ‘the people’.’He forgot to mention all the personal motives of this shabby group ie making money and not having to answer to any regulations. Laissez-faire and Britannia Unchained is their modus operandi. I can only hope that Donald Tusk is bluffing and that Parliament can somehow get this stupid PM to go back and ask for a longer extension. It is going to be a long 9 days. Francois also said on air that he could not wait for the 29th so he could go and look the pro EU protesters in Parliament Square ‘in the face’. What an utterly despicable man to be serving as an MP.