The Tories got us into this Brexit mess and have to get us out – this is no time for cross-party consensus

Despite the apparent power other groups and parties hold, are May and her Brexiteers really going to agree to concessions that amount to anything more than window dressing? 

James Moore
Tuesday 13 June 2017 17:14
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The Brexit Minister, David Davis, has been re-appointed to the position he held before the general election
The Brexit Minister, David Davis, has been re-appointed to the position he held before the general election

The election result has put “everything back on the table” according to some.

There have been calls for Theresa May to re-think her hard right ultra-Brexit stance, which dismally failed to win a popular mandate for her Tory-kip Government.

It has been suggested that May could now “bring people in” and adopt a more collegial approach, even to the extent of talking to other parties about how to move the lunatic project forward. The latter was suggested by one of the Conservatives’ rare grown-ups, Kenneth Clarke.

After just under a year of one of the most divisive Governments in living memory, consensus rules! Or does it?

For a start, I don’t believe the Prime Minister has changed her spots. She might briefly have ditched RoboMay in favour of impersonating a human being before her backbench MPs, temporarily shoring up her position with an apology for blowing a 25 point lead in the opinion polls.

But let’s not kid ourselves. May has proved that there is no zealot like a convert, and her Brexit is still being driven by same toxic group of ideologically driven fundamentalists and ambitious chancers as it was before 9 June.

David Davis is still threatening to dash the British economy on the rocks of trading under WTO rules by crashing out of the EU without a deal. Britain’s international standing will continue to plumb new depths under Boris Johnson. Liam Fox, otherwise known as the invisible man, apparently continues to oversee trade. Worse still, their number has been added to by the member for Murdoch Central, Michael Gove.

Parliamentary arithmetic makes life difficult for them. They are set to have to pay succour to the Democratic Unionists, who may favour a softer Brexit. Ditto the Ruth Davidson led Scottish Conservatives, without whom the party would be in an even bigger mess than it is now. They’ve talked about an “open Brexit” whatever that means. Perhaps the party’s heretofore supine Remainers will discover some fight too. All to play for!

But despite the apparent power these groups hold, are May and her Brexiteers really going to agree to concessions that amount to anything more than window dressing? I have my doubts. Have you noticed any meaningful softening in their rhetoric?

Brexit could easily turn into a bigger economic calamity for this country than even the financial crisis. The effects of the vote might have taken their time to filter through, but they are now, finally, being felt. Price rises are continuing to run ahead of wages as a result of the Brexit driven fall in the pound. Economic growth has stalled. Business confidence has plummeted, according to no less than the Institute of Directors.

Theresa May should admit result is a rejection of hard Brexit, says EU negotiator

Then there is the impact of the Government’s bellicose language towards immigrants. In case you hadn’t noticed, the number of nurses applying to work here from the EU has fallen by a staggering 96 per cent since the Brexit vote.

Those who think we’ll train our own brigade need to understand something: it isn’t happening, and the Conservatives made it less likely to happen in the case of nurses when they replaced bursaries with loans.

Many years ago, a previous Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, memorably said: “If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. And I warn you not to grow old.”

The same quote could easily have been applied to May, who did win, albeit only just, and without a majority.

The outlook for the next few months of her premiership is, I am afraid, bleak. As such, why would anyone want to share responsibility for the mess we are about to live through? Why would anyone want to be associated with it?

Ever since the EU referendum vote, Brexiteers have been attempting to shift the blame for any problems that have emerged on to their opponents.

When they're not our fault, we're accused of “not believing in Britain” for highlighting them, which appears to be about the only argument May has to deploy against her critics (take a trip to any schoolyard, and you’ll hear debates with a similar level of intellectual heft).

Why open the door to more of the same?

No, there can be no people’s Brexit, and there can be no consensus. Having demeaned, traduced, even threatened violence against their opponents, the Brexiteers and their backers have their wish. They have the con (which is what the whole Brexit project amounts to). It would be very unwise for anyone to seek to share it with them.

Better to wait until they have been thrown to the wolves and the job of sorting out the mess and creating something better, and more human, is open. Who knows, we might be there in a few months.

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