Yesterday was another classic example of Mayism. The Prime Minister was all set to send a note to Brussels about the backstop arrangements, a note that in true May style had a time limited clause that specified no time limit, her cabinet be damned, then David Davis got a bit huffy about it and so she agree to delay it. I guess the cabinet are meeting today to discuss the matter, but what can really be achieved here? You have one set of people who believe that anything other than close alignment with the EU is tantamount to allowing the economy to collapse and the Troubles to re-ignite, and another set of people who believe that anything other than complete detachment from the EU in every conceivable sense is a betrayal of the EU referendum vote. I fail to understand how May thinks these people can ever be brought together to agree on a Brexit strategy. It is literally impossible.
David Davis is either about to quit – or, in true 2018 style, is not even contemplating it. The latter seems unlikely given he must have threatened something of the kind to force May’s hand yesterday. As far as empty threats go, Davis quitting as Brexit Secretary is up there. I can think of few things that would threaten Brexit taking place more than Davis walking. Think about it for a second: it would massively embolden both the organised Remainers and their narrative (that Brexit is falling apart before our eyes); it would also put wind in the sails of the Tory rebels in regards to next Tuesday (Davis walking throwing everything about Brexit up into the air, meaning Tuesday’s vote could be their only chance to lock things into some form of sanity). As ever, and as it has always been, the only way for Brexiteers to get the Brexit they want is to push May aside. They should have done it months ago. It has always been clear that she is going to take the safe option, and given the EU are in no mood and have no pressure upon them to give forth anything other than something that looks like Norway+, with everything that comes along with that including freedom of movement and paying quite a lot into the EU budget every year, that is what you will get if May stays in post until March 2019. There will be semantics involved, as ever, but that is what the final deal will boil down to.
What I really don’t understand is what it is about the state of Brexit Davis suddenly has such a problem with. All May is doing is ratifying the position agreed with the Commission in December. I remember back then, all of the Brexiteers crowing about what a good deal May had come back with. When I would point out that it seemed to involve paying a lot of money to the EU while remaining in close alignment with EU rules, yet having no say in those rules, I was told that this is what was always going to happen and that was fine – we’re leaving that’s the important thing here. Now, those same people are complaining that those things are unacceptable. I don’t get it.
I think Davis is mostly grandstanding in order to make it look like he fought the good fight, as it were; to redeem himself with the Brexity portion of the Conservative Party. Then again, maybe he’ll walk – in 2018, who knows?
Paul W says
Well, David Davis might be grandstanding, but I can assure you, Nick, that the open-ended Backstop concept would not be acceptable to many Conservative and Unionist party members because it represents an assault on the integrity and sovereignty of the UK. Mrs May would be unwise to push the idea too far.
In addition, to my mind, the front page headline in The Times today (07.06.18) accusing Downing Street of deception or double dealing in the matter is, if correct, even more damaging because it undermines trust in the leadership. It is the sort of thing that could trigger 48 letters going to the chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee requesting a vote of confidence in the party leader.
Looks like May blinked.