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Analysis

PM like rabbit frozen in headlights over extra time

by Hugo Dixon | 19.03.2019

The prime minister is yet again clueless what to do about Brexit. Her latest problem is that she doesn’t know what reason to give the other EU leaders for delaying Brexit when she meets them in just two days – or how long to ask for.

With Theresa May all over the place, it may be time for MPs to take control and tell her what to do. Otherwise, there’s a risk of either a car crash or a stitch-up at the summit.

There was a row at today’s Cabinet over the topic, according to the BBC. One minister told the broadcaster there was “no agreement” what to ask for. Another source expressed frustration that May did not make clear what she would actually argue for when she gets to Thursday’s summit.

The prime minister herself proposed a motion in the Commons only last Thursday calling for an extension to the Article 50 process. The idea was that, if she could get her deal through Parliament by tomorrow, she would ask for just three months. But if she failed, she would ask for longer.

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There’s now no chance of her getting her deal through Parliament by tomorrow. It’s not just that MPs rejected it by 149 votes last Tuesday. The Speaker yesterday made it hard for her to hold another vote on the same old deal. The best she can hope for – and even this will be really tricky – is to dragoon MPs to back it after the summit.

So now the prime minister is doing her well-worn impression of looking like a rabbit frozen in the headlights – and her Cabinet is proving a total shower. The Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay urged MPs to back extra time last week and then voted against it himself. Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who also voted against extra time, criticised her colleagues today, saying it is now a “Remain Cabinet”, not a “Brexit Cabinet”, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, the prime minister’s spokesperson couldn’t give a proper account of what sort of extension she would ask for.

Not surprisingly, our EU friends are getting exasperated. Frances’ Europe minister said the UK must come up with a reason for any Brexit delay. “Grant an extension — what for? Time is not a solution, it’s a method.”

Since the Cabinet doesn’t seem to be able to force the prime minister to come up with an answer, perhaps MPs should. They could haul May in front the Commons and get her to tell them her plan. And if she doesn’t have a plan, they could devise one for her.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

9 Responses to “PM like rabbit frozen in headlights over extra time”

  • Only one thing to do, Teresa, cancel Brexit and blame it on Parliament. Apologise to the EU, ask the DUP for our £1B back, since they signally failed to back her in anything meaningful, and back to normal. Tell the public that for a modern major democracy to attempt to leave the EU in any coherent condition is just about impossible. Remind them that this is the 21st century, not the 19th.

  • Totally agree with John M. It is the only thing to do. She has been broken into pieces. It was a stupid thing to do in the first place. No one had any idea of what it entailed and there is still no idea of what it means. She won’ t do it, of course, but perhaps it may come down to Parliament forcing her to do it. What other sensible course of action is there?

  • The real problem is that the only problem that is being addressed is “how we leave the EU” and the only problem that will resolve is how we leave the EU.
    None of this nonsense has anything to do with any of the problems that the UK has. The government seems to have no interest in any of those.
    Sad really.

  • It appears to have been a feature of May’s premiership, on everything, that she never tells anyone else what she is planning or thinking. No wo/man is an island and a country can’t be governed by one person acting alone. The sad thing is she will probably never understand where she went wrong. I doubt if she will write a memoir though others will write endlessly about this desperate period. I just hope I live long enough to see our broken country whole again (I’m 58).

  • Totally agree with John M and William T. It was stupid to try to appease the 27% of the population who voted Leave, when a very similar %age voted Remain and nearly half the Country didn’t vote at all. 50 million people didn’t vote to leave, so why are we trying to do it? Put it back to the People

  • That’s right, leaving the EU has become a fixed idea in the minds of many, after newspapers have hammered it home for so long. One solution might be for the EU to make some cosmetic adjustments and change its name to the Association of European nations. Brexiters could then be sent a personal letter telling them that we have left the EU, together with a blue passport. The requirements of the referendum having been technically satisfied, they would be quite happy.

  • Just watching Theresa May answering questions to Parliament, whilst she seems most assertive and confident when answering questions from Opposition parties, she seems to physically shake and stutter when answering questions from hardline Brexiteers.