Weather's ‘beast from the east’ has shown the world what happens when the UK comes together . . . under a blanket of snow, all mucking in. So today was a good day for Mrs May to shovel some bad news herself and call upon us all to come together and raise our eyes to the warm sun of our new Brexit arcadia. Setting out her five big tests of Brexit, she conjured up five platitudinous rabbits. First ‘we’ voted for Brexit which must be respected. But hang on! She goes on to say we voted ‘for wider change, so that no community in Britain would ever be left behind again.’ I don’t recall that question being on the referendum ballot paper. And if we wanted something as radical as that, what’s she doing in No.10? More people are being left behind than ever before, and it’s nothing to do with the EU.
Test number two is that the deal must endure. Perhaps this test is mentioned so as to remind people that it is her own incompetent government that’s negotiating it. Test number three: to protect people’s jobs and security. With the lowest rate of growth in the G8, Mrs May has a proud record to defend not least for her support of and participation in failed austerity. Test number four: ‘it must be consistent with the kind of country we want to be as we leave: a modern, open, outward-looking, tolerant, European democracy. A nation of pioneers, innovators, explorers and creators. A country that celebrates our history and diversity, confident of our place in the world; that meets its obligations to our near neighbours and far off friends, and is proud to stand up for its values.’ Yes of course. Are you listening Jacob?
Finally, test number five: it must strengthen our union of nations and peoples. A little curtsy there to the DUP I suspect. But a curious one. Perhaps we ought to seek a bit more ‘regulatory alignment’ of Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK, where for example abortion is legal.
As for the rest of her speech (which I forced myself to read) with its so-called ‘hard truths’ (half truths?) there is little more to inspire confidence than in any of her five ‘tests.’ Her talk of tariff free frictionless borders and all sorts alignments with the EU suggest that the Brexiteer’s bag is half empty rather than half full. How exactly, I wonder, just by way of example, would the UK Parliament pay heed to EU laws after Brexit or British courts pay heed to European Court of Justice rulings? She talks of an independent trade disputes body, not either one or the other of the UK or the EU. How will that be constituted? A whole raft of new bilateral quangos are coming our way – many of which will include members from the dreaded EU. Maybe it’s not such a bad speech after all.
I was amused by an unintended irony in a comment left on the BBC News website along the lines of ‘Remainers should stop calling for a second referendum, we Brexiteers had to wait 40 years for ours!’ Perhaps we won’t need one.