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Analysis

May’s Brexit manifesto an affront to democracy

by Hugo Dixon | 18.05.2017

Theresa May’s manifesto is an affront to democracy. Exactly a month ago, the prime minister used Brexit as the justification for breaking her promise not to call a snap election. Her 84-page document does nothing to enlighten voters about how she’s going to pursue our most important negotiations since World War Two.

There are 8 major flaws in the manifesto.

Fantasy timetable

May is living in la-la land. She persists with fiction we can conclude a new deal with EU at the same time as our divorce, “reaching agreement on both within the two years allowed by Article 50.” As a result, there’s no discussion about putting in place a transition agreement to ensure we don’t fall off a cliff in March 2019.

Crashing out with no deal

The prime minister promises a “smooth and orderly Brexit” while repeating her statement that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. What would be smooth and orderly about crashing out with no deal?

Poor, ordinary people

The manifesto correctly says: “When things spiral out of control, it is ordinary working people who are hit hardest”. But why then rip Britain out of the single market and threaten to crash out without any deal at all? If the prime minister’s speech-writers had a sense of humour, one might think the phrase was mischievous.

How precious a Union?

There’s a whole section of the manifesto called “our precious Union”. And yet the prime minister’s destructive Brexit has given the SNP an excuse to reopen the question of Scottish independence – and her decision to pull out of the customs union threatens to lead to the reimposition of border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Again, if one didn’t know better, one might think the prime minister was pulling our legs.

No plan for EU migration

The manifesto recommits the Tories to cut net migration to less than 100,000 a year – a foolish target they have consistently missed and which can only be hit by damaging the economy as well as vital services such as the NHS. But May is adamant we must end free movement. That’s the will of the people.

Given her passion on the topic, one might have expected the manifesto to set out a policy for EU migration. But what do we get? One platitudinous sentence: “We will.… establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs.” Yes, that’s it.

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No dissent, please, we’re British

May says “Britain must stay strong and united” as we embark on our Brexit talks. This is a pale version of the tabloid attacks on pro-Europeans for being saboteurs and remoaners. As if debate and dissent are no longer allowed in this democracy. As if pro-Europeans have lost their right to warn over the dangers ahead.

Henry VIII a democrat?

May pledges to use the referendum to restore our faith in democracy. In the same breath, she is asking for so-called Henry VIII powers as part of the Great Repeal Bill which will initially translate EU law into British law. The bill will create powers to “correct the laws” that don’t operate appropriately once we’ve left EU. Worryingly, the manifesto doesn’t spell out which laws might need correction.

No cap on CAP

In the old days, Tory eurosceptics used to rail against the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP). But if you expected the manifesto to spell out a new farming policy, you’ll be disappointed. It just promises to keep giving farmers exactly what they receive under CAP until the end of the next parliament.

Most people aren’t expecting another election until 2022. But the manifesto makes clear that can’t be taken for granted. The Tories plan to repeal Fixed Term Parliaments Act. That means we should expect May to call another snap election as and when it suits her – perhaps if she makes a horlicks of the Brexit negotiations in 2019 but before the damage is visible to the public.

2 Responses to “May’s Brexit manifesto an affront to democracy”

  • Who can say reducing migration is the will of the people? It is an assumption. Especially the 100,000 target which is a tough number. The referendum was just about staying in or out of the EU. Brexit means Brexit and nothing else can be taken as read. That is the tragedy of one issue referenda and one issue political power.

    Labour’s manifesto is more credible than the Tory manifesto and certainly addresses key issues faced by our society.

  • Great report, better than the mass media doesn’t think and want the audience to think and analyze the inconsistencies of May and her pledges, good work