I’ve just watched a short video which shows Theresa May giving a speech on Brexit (I’ve put it up on Facebook). In it, she details the many ways in which it makes sense to stay in the EU. Among other things, she notes that trade from Britain to the EU is 44%, the other direction is 8%. She doesn’t say “It’s a no-brainer” but she comes near to it.
This, of course, was before the Brexit referendum. Then Theresa learnt to forget all the arguments she’d put up for remaining in the EU and began amassing reasons why leaving the EU would be a good idea and bring a glad confident morning to the UK.
Nobody seems to mind this spectacular conversion. I can’t remember an interviewer or a commentator saying that she was now in flat contradiction to the line she took a couple of years ago.
Consider the contrast with Sinn Féin. That party, back in the 1970s, was opposed to the EU, or EEC as it was then. Now they are firmly for remaining a member of the EU, and for making room so north and south are included in the EU setting. Inside the past day or two I’ve heard Sinn Féin upbraided for inconsistency in attitude towards the European project.
You remember the 1970s? Platform shoes, baggy trousers, the Bay City Rollers -not to mention vicious war in Ireland. That was 40+ years ago. The landscape, especially the political landscape, is very different now to what it was then. Any party that didn’t change over a 40-year period would merit having a tag tied to its big toe declaring ‘This party is dead.’ Nobody’s tying anything to Theresa’s big toe, though doing a flip-flop within two years (not to mention a flip-flop over her own deal over two weeks) suggests someone whose political principles have all the rock-like consistency of a soft-boiled egg.
Meanwhile we watch as the clock ticks down to the end of next month. There’s general agreement that a hard Brexit would damage all sides – Britain, the EU, Ireland. But as Theresa pointed out in a pre-referendum speech, trade from Britain to the EU stands at 44%, trade from the EU to Britain stands at 8%. A hard Brexit would obviously not be nice for anybody, but clearly worse for the party with the 44% about to dissolve.
Right now Theresa’s getting her bag packed for another foray to Brussels. She knows and they know that the best she can hope to come back with are some warm words and an undisturbed withdrawal agreement which was signed off on some months back. The House of Commons has kicked that agreement to death already. It’ll be interesting to see who now emerges to claim that a hard Brexit will bring out the Best in Britain.