May’s approach to Brexit negotiations

May’s stated objective is to get the best deal for the UK from Brexit, so she would obviously do only what is necessary to achieve her aim.  But is that the way it has turned out?  Here are some thoughts on May’s “strong and stable” approach from the point of view of achieving that objective, remembering that this is what Scotland faces in 2019 as part of the UK.

Back in July, whilst the EU cracked on with preparing, May lost time starting two (competing) Whitehall departments from scratch.  Then in the Autumn, when the High Court ruled that Article 50 was outside prerogative, May could have got on with the job with an Article 50 Bill – but appealed instead, wasting more time.  May was lucky the Supreme Court said only a Bill was needed and didn’t insist on input from the devolved administrations as well, but it was a huge, needless, time-wasting gamble.  Had May just got on with preparing the Article 50 Bill, it would have been passed by Christmas.

She claimed not to want show her cards, using that as the excuse for not giving any information to the public, but then she made her Birmingham conference speech when she just couldn’t resist telling the party faithful how clever she was going to be.  In that speech, she declared (a) a March date for Article 50, (b) no ECJ jurisdiction and (c) no freedom of movement.  So several cards fully shown?

Come this April, instead of “getting on with the job”, she wastes almost two months of the Article 50 two years schedule with a needless general election, in clear contradiction of her excuse for refusing to sanction a Scottish independence referendum, though, I suppose, only needless if you ignore the possibility that as many as 30 Tory MPs (her majority is 12) could end up in the chokey for fiddling their election expenses.  Three times she could have “got on with the job” but instead we get two needless new departments, a needless appeal and a needless general election.  Again and again, under the cloak of her “getting on with job” rhetoric, May is diverted and wastes time that should be spent preparing for negotiations with the EU.

But the EU27 have not been wasting time.  Note the news that the EU27 have agreed a common approach to the negotiations.  This didn’t come about by accident.  Compare with the UK, where May hasn’t got, and hasn’t even attempted to get, an agreed UK approach among the four UK administrations.

And in addition to all this, she has contrived to lose key people like Sir Ivan Rogers, the EU Ambassador, and two of her senior Downing Street advisers, and appointing idiots like Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to key positions in the administration has been the expected unmitigated disaster.  Combined with this is the aggressive attitude that has characterised May’s whole approach.  May’s attitude has been one of “they need us more than we need them” so they’ll jolly well have to do as they’re told.  Insults and threats have been the order of the day from the moment the result of the referendum was announced, further poisoning the relationship with Europe even before negotiations have really started.

This is not strong and stable leadership but the reverse, but people might nod along because it is called “strong and stable leadership”.  The truth is that if the UK had not wasted time with two new departments, a needless appeal and a needless election, they would be in a better position than now with more time to prepare for what they want to achieve and how they want to go about it.  More preparation would have helped to prevent the outcome from the now infamous dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker where it was obvious that May had precious little idea of what was required, but a hugely inflated sense of what she could achieve.  Only May is to blame for these delays, pushing the UK Government into a situation which it is supremely unqualified to cope with.  With this level of incompetence, what are the chances of an acceptable Brexit deal with the EU?

May is acting like a dictator and, like all other dictators, she has either to get a successful outcome in every situation or she has to have the authority (or the muscle) to override any and all objections.  She’s not there yet, but do you want to bet your future on the way she’ll eventually go?

This is the person that the Tories want you to support at GE17.  This is the standard of government that you can expect from a May-led Westminster administration and remember the Tories also want to make even the local elections all about Brexit and this Westminster administration.  This is what we need to reject before any more of the incompetence creeps over the border and infects Holyrood.

Be warned.  Vote Tory and you are voting for a continuing “strong and stable” Brexit shambles.

Money to burn

It appears that the Conservative Party may have been just a little bit naughty about their election expenses for the 2015 UK General Election.  According to Channel 4 news (is it the only decent news broadcaster in the UK these days?), large chunks of lolly were “accidentally” omitted from the spending returns of a large number of Tory candidates in marginal seats.  The Tories’ excuse was that this was believed to be national spending, though it appears that much of the money doesn’t appear to have been included in their national return either, due to “administrative” errors.  However, as we are talking of six figure sums involving large Union Jack bedecked battle buses and dozens of activists, you may need to be particularly inept to overlook them entirely.

 Currently, around 45 (opinions vary about the number) Tory MPs’ election expenses are being investigated by around 30 police forces.  Most appear to have asked for extra time to complete their investigations, though none (as far as I am aware) have given any indication of the length of time their investigations are likely to take, important because the longer it takes, the less chance there is of there being any real result.

In theory, the Electoral Commission could order a rerun of the 2015 election in the affected constituencies.  That would almost certainly mean a change of government as it’s unlikely voters would be as kind to the Tories as they were in the original vote.  However, the implications of a rerun are such that this seems a bit extreme for the Commission.  For example, would it render the decisions taken by the (now) illegal Tory administration invalid?  Or would the Labour party come to regret the number of times they abstained in crucial divisions on Social Security changes instead of living up to their status as official Opposition.

More likely is that the Commission would accept a Tory plea that the errors were simply mistakes and that there was no deliberate intention to defraud, resulting in slap on the wrist, a small(ish) fine and a promise to be better behaved little boys and girls in the future.  That’s especially likely if you think about why the two main UK opposition parties are not really taking as much advantage of the situation as you’d expect and aren’t making that much fuss.  Could it be because both Labour and the LibDems were more or less equally guilty, differing perhaps only on a matter of scale.

Labour battle busLibDem battlebus

Perhaps they’re all just naughty little boys and girls.