Theresa May’s Brexit Speech
Theresa May’s January 2017 Brexit speech was absolute codswallop from start to finish. When it was finally announced last week that we would be getting the details soon, we all held on to the hope that some sort of plan might actually exist, and that Theresa May wasn’t going to drag us into the Brexit negotiations without a clue what we are doing. Unfortunately it appears that, after all the time they had, the best Theresa May and her cabinet could come up with is a bunch of empty threats and a bunch of self-contradictory nonsense. Now with the triggering of article 50 in March looming, we are in an even worse position then we were before the speech!
Do we start with the bit about putting the Union ‘at the Heart of everything we do’ while simultaneously urinating all over Nicola Sturgeons red line by announcing that the Tory Party are going to try and drag Scotland out the single market against their will? What about all her Guff about wanting ‘free trade with European markets’ whilst announcing her intention to drag the UK out of the largest free trade zone on earth? How about the bit where Theresa May claimed that she wants the UK to be a ‘magnet for international talent’ whilst announcing her determination to drive countless skilled migrants away from the UK as an attempt to appease the Ukipper wing of the party. Probably the most ridiculous self-contradictory bit however was her assertion that the Tory’s must set about making plans to turn the country in to a savagely right wing tax haven economy because ‘government should prepare for every eventuality’
To assert such a thing in a speech that has taken the Tory party over six months to come up with because they didn’t bother to even consider the possibility that David Cameron might lose his reckless EU gamble, is quite extraordinary. The only bloody reason she’s making this speech so long after the vote to leave is because the government which she was part of not only failed to ‘prepare for every eventuality’ but actually completely failed to provide for one of the eventualities in a binary choice where there were only two possible outcomes!
The Biggest Lie
After much speculation, Theresa May decided that she would rather drag the UK out of the single market than risk enraging the Tory bigot demographic who Theresa May can court for votes at the next general election. In an attempt to justify her decision she made the extraordinary claim that Brexiters had campaigned on a platform of quitting the single market all along. Here’s exactly what she said:
‘Both sides of the referendum debate made it clear that a vote to leave the EU would be a vote to leave the single market’
Here are a few reminders of what numerous Brexiters were actually saying before the EU referendum in order to hoodwink people into voting Leave.
‘Only a madman would actually Leave the single market’ — Owen Paterson, Tory Leave Campaigner
‘Absolutely no one is talking about threatening our place in the single market’ — Daniel Hannan, Tory Vote Leave Campaigner
‘There is a Free Trade zone from Iceland to the Russian Border, and Britain will still be part of it after we Leave’ — Chris Grayling, Tory Leave Campaigner and member of Theresa May’s own cabinet!
‘There is no question about it, Britain will still have access to the Single Market after we, vote Leave’ — Matthew Elliot, Chief Executive of the Vote Leave Campaign
‘Britain will stay in the single market whatever happens’ — Pete North, pro Brexit blogger
Aside from the numerous Brexiter Claims that Britain should remain part of the single market, there were also a bunch of suggestions that that Britain could follow the Norway Switzerland model, of existing outside the EU, but having access to the single market. Of course, there were always Brexiter extremists who constantly argued the case that Britain should commit economic self-harm by quitting the single market, but Theresa May’s claim that all leave campaigners were campaigning on this platform is an absolutely transparent lie.
Theresa May’s Free Trade Fantasy
After explaining that her radical Interpretation of Brexit means that she thinks she has got a mandate to drag Britain out of the single market, Theresa May went on to propose a new free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. Part of this fantasy deal apparently includes negotiating tariff-free single market access for the financial services sector and other major corporations such as the motor industry. Here’s what she said:
‘We do not seek membership of the single market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a Free Trade Agreement. That Agreement may take in elements of the current Single market arrangements in certain areas — on the export of cars and Lorry’s for example, or the freedom to provide financial services across national borders — as it makes no sense to start again from scratch when Britain and the Remaining member states have adhered to the same rules for many years’
Essentially, what Theresa May is saying is that if the Industry has the power to either donate vast sums of money to the Tory Party (like the financial services sector) or to hold the UK government to Ransom by threatening to up sticks and relocate their factories to the single market zone (the car industry) then Theresa May and her Brexiters are going to try and negotiate single market access to them. But if, on the other hand, your business doesn’t have such financial might (small and medium sized businesses, start-ups, independent traders etc.) screw you! You’re probably going to end up paying tariffs if your business involves importing and exporting goods, materials or services from/to EU countries. Even the justification for this haphazard approach is ridiculous. If Theresa May admits that it makes no sense to tear up the rules for the financial services sector and major corporations like the motor industry, how on earth does it make sense to force Britain’s small and medium sized businesses to ‘start again from scratch?’
The Idea of negotiating single market access just for the powerful corporations with the financial might to either bribe or coerce the Tory’s into doing their bidding, while leaving the rest of the economy to suffer under the threat of import and export tariffs, is yet another example of the Tory’s deliberately reengineering the economy to suit their rich chums. The idea of Theresa may exempting bankers and fat cats from the economic self-harm of quitting the single market should be appalling to all but the most rabidly right wing of British people, but it seems unlikely that it will ever actually play out that way because the EU are highly unlikely to let the Tory Party pick and choose which sectors of the British economy get to have access to the single market.
The problem with the Hard Brexit vs soft Brexit debate is that it seems to assume that the Tory’s were actually working on a negotiating strategy with the EU, rather than devising a Propaganda narrative to convince the British Public to accept a savagely right wing version of Brexit. All Theresa Mays speech essentially boils down to is that if the EU doesn’t cave in to the Tory’s impossible demands to retain access to the single market for large corporations while screwing over everyone else and scrapping freedom of movement, then the Tory’s are going to set about trashing the remaining vestiges of the European Social Democratic model in the UK (Universal Healthcare, free education, the social security system, legal aid, workers’ rights etc.) In order to turn the UK in to the world’s biggest tax haven.
It’s bitterly cynical, but the propaganda narrative the Tory’s seem to be trying to set is a pretty smart one. The hard right fringe of the Tory Party have always hated the NHS, workers’ rights and the idea of providing a social safety net to alleviate poverty and suffering. They want a ruthless right wing dystopia where the rich are freed from any constraints of having to regulate their actions or pay their fair share whilst the poor and vulnerable are left to fend for themselves or die. They know they can’t push this savagely right wing agenda as a choice, so they’re going to try and dress it up as a necessity that has been forced on us by the nasty foreigners.
It looks like the Tory’s have no honest intention of negotiating with the EU at all. What they will do is table an impossible proposition, then attempt to frame the debate as if the EU are the bad guys for dismissing the impossible proposition, rather than the Tory’s being the bad guys for trying to destroy the negotiations before they even got started. The likely resulting propaganda narrative will be that the evil EU is going to cruelly close off Britain, leaving the brave and defiant Tory Party to take the ‘only possible action’ of reducing corporation tax to pretty much zero and wrecking what is left of our public services. ‘We don’t want to do this’, they will protest as they gleefully trash the post war legacy, ‘but the evil EU mad us do it’. And disappointingly millions of people will buy in to the story that the UK has to take a massive lurch in to the fanatical hard right wing territory, not because that’s what the Tory actually wanted but because, the nasty, awful, horrible, evil EU made them do it.
The beauty of this strategy is that it feeds in to the self-pitying victim complex mentality that Nigel Farage and the Ukippers have fostered as a national characteristic, and which worked a treat in convincing people that things like the EU and immigration are to blame for the appalling consequences of four decades of hard right, Thatcherite economic dogma. If millions of people were gullible enough to buy in to the austerity con, (that the burden of the economic crisis should fall on poor and ordinary people, rather than the super wealthy bankers who actually caused it with their utterly reckless, deregulated gambling) then it seems pretty damned likely that there will be plenty enough idiots to buy into the ridiculous, self-pitying idea that Britain has to turn into a fanatically right wing, Tory dystopia of a tax haven economy because the nasty EU made us do it.
It looks an awful lot like the strategy the Tory’s have been working on isn’t one of how to form a post Brexit co — operation with the rest of the EU, but actually a plan to convince a significant portion of the British public that there’s no alternative to their wet dream of turning the UK into a savagely right wing tax haven, in order that they don’t lose their grip on power in the process of enacting such an atrocious scheme.