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May fast turning UK into political eunuch

by Hugo Dixon | 04.03.2018

The prime minister claimed she was setting out the road to Brexit in her speech on Friday. She is actually setting out on the road to serfdom.

Theresa May had already taken big steps on this road before last week. She agreed to turn us into a vassal state during the “transition” she wants so the economy doesn’t fall off a cliff when we quit the EU next March. Although she used to say that would last around two years, she recently left open the possibility it could go on and on. The best guess is it will be five.

The prime minister also agreed that Northern Ireland might become a vassal province last December if she couldn’t come up with a viable alternative – which she hasn’t done. Then she proposed that we should become rule-takers in those EU agencies responsible for fighting crime and terrorism such as Europol, currently run by a Brit, when she spoke in Munich last month.

In her Mansion House speech, the prime minister took a few more steps on the road to serfdom. She proposed “binding commitments” to follow the EU’s state aid and competition rules. She said she wanted our pharma, chemicals and aviation industries to be governed by EU regulators. She added that she wanted to continue to participate in the EU’s internal energy market and keep a “close association” with Euratom, which governs nuclear energy.

Finally, the prime minister made a “commitment” that for all goods our standards will remain “substantially similar” to the EU’s and in some cases we might have “identical” laws.

These are not the last steps May will take. She has picked the sectors where she is happy for us to follow EU rules, but left out the ones where she wants freedom to set our own regulations. The EU will make clear when it publishes its guidelines this week that such “cherry-picking” is a non-starter.

So to get an ambitious trade deal, the prime minister will probably need at least to make a binding commitment to follow the rules in all manufacturing sectors rather than just a few. She may also have to turn her promise “not to engage in a race to the bottom” on workers’ rights and the environment into a solid pledge.

While one could nitpick over some of the EU’s rules, for the most part they are pretty good. They ensure fair competition over a vast area of 500 million consumers, while protecting workers and the environment. They also let us fight crime and terrorism while protecting civil liberties.

It’s not surprising the rules are pretty good. The UK has played a leading role in devising them.

The prime minister is now willing to sacrifice our influence because, if we quit the EU, it is the only way to preserve our prosperity and security. But there’s a much better alternative. We don’t need to become a political eunuch. We merely need to cancel Brexit.

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7 Responses to “May fast turning UK into political eunuch”

  • May’s latest speech is aspirational rather than providing true detail. It finally confirms the bad news that we shall be worse off than before. It at least indicates that the hard-core Brexiteers in the Tory party can be forced to suck up the bad news when they are threatened by Corbyn putting them out of a job. However, the actual content of the speech was not much more than a good A-Level Economics student should be able to provide in a few weeks of research. The border with Ireland kicked down the road again and Gibralter not getting a look-in, with Spain looking on, with its veto in its hand and ready to use. The speech is being oversold as it still has to be discussed and negotiated. Although it is more realistic, it makes the case for leaving the EU much harder to support; the benefits, if any, are questionable and likely to get worse as negotiations progress. It encourages me to think that the entire charade could collapse as the benefits dwindle to zero and the country generally comes to accept that. And then the country will be looking for the guilty parties that led us up this blind alley.

  • Although you have to be impressed with the PM’s ability with words, there was actually very little to suggest she is anywhere near one of her stated goals of “bringing the country together.” The 2 big issues are membership of the Single Market and Customs Union, particularly the former, but she is still ruling both out. The Single Market membership is so important not only to businesses and the economy generally, but also so many of the consequences for private individuals seeking to move around and have dealings in Europe are dependant on it.
    Membership of several pan-European agencies is nowhere near addressing the requirements of businesses needing to move goods and services. The stumbling block, I imagine, is freedom of movement, but again, if the Government were alot more creative in interpreting the rules attached to this, as other EU countries have done, the numbers of unproductive EU nationals could be reduced, and there would be little case left to leave the Single Market.

  • To Alex Wilson-
    The PM’s ability with words? I would have thought she gets her speeches written for her. But her aim appears to to play for time, churning out random verbiage at regular intervals, until we cross the line on 29 March next year.

  • Phase 1 of the negotiations was a fudge and is unworkable. Phase 2 has to be finished by October 2018, which is clearly impossible. So it is inevitable that we will not not get any sort of deal and will crash out of the EU. Unless she simply capitulates entirely to the EU’s position on all matters. This makes no sense and the best course of action is to stay in the EU.

  • Can’t we find a more accessible way to explain our future likely position that phrases like a ‘vassal state’. How many people really understand its meaning? There is too much obscurity in the debates, not helped by obtuse language. Let’s get real and speak it as it is. We will be second rate, have little or no control over our destiny and slide into irrelevance.Hyped Royal weddings and alleged success on the sports field will not compensate

  • There has been considerable discussion about the Irish border. I don’t recall much discussion about the Gibraltar/Spain border.