The long awaited speech, laying out Theresa May’s plan for Brexit, has finally reached us. She will describe her twelve negotiating objectives for leaving the EU (which hasn’t been trailed to the press, so we all need to wait and see on that one) at 11:45 this morning. There is enough vagueness in it that single market desperados will seize on – such as her “four key “principles”, and how they differ from the twelve objectives I can’t say, which are: a stronger Britain, a fairer Britain, a truly global Britain, and certainty and clarity. Draw your own joke from that, there are plenty to choose from.
But in reality, there is enough clarity in May’s speech to understand what the opening negotiating stance will be. We are leaving the single market.
“Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave.”
That’s pretty clear – or at least as clear as Theresa May gets. For someone known for being grumpily straightforward, she really does speak an awful lot of piffle. Why she can’t bring herself to just say the words “we’re leaving the single market” is obvious though: she wants to blame our exit and any downsides from that on the European Union.
So that’s it. We’re out of everything it looks like, including the Customs Union. What happens to the Irish border is now more of a live question, as is what the Nissan deal contained.
Given the noises Labour have already made about remaining in the single market, this does present an interesting question: will they vote down triggering Article 50 now that May has made her intention clear that staying in the single market is not on the cards? I severely doubt it – some Labour MPs may choose to do this of their own volition, but I can’t see an organised party position on the subject. Even though this would be a no-brainer in terms of uniting his party for Corbyn. No, I don’t think May has much to worry about in regards to Labour – which is why she doesn’t feel worried about announcing her intentions in this way, essentially waving a red flag at them.
Come to think of it, I think Theresa May has worked out the politics of all of this further than just blaming the EU for any impact of leaving the single market. She knows that a huge number of Remainers will blame Labour and Corbyn specifically if and when problems are created for people, particularly the economically worse off, via leaving the single market. She has priced in Labour’s failure to speak to this audience already, something I have give her credit for.