The danger of Brexit just melting away

The Conservative party is clearly having a collective audition for Hamlet – it knows it must strike the fatal blow, but can’t summon up the reserves of courage and character to do so.

The Brexiteers, we are told, have finally lost patience with the Prime Minister Theresa May. Finally! What took them so long?

Apparently they swallowed a number of compromises, such as the proposed transition period, in the belief that Mrs May would keep faith with the British people and take Britain out of EU control. Not “soft” or “hard”, not half-in/half out, but Brexit in deed as well as word. Now they fear it is shaping up to be Brexit in word but not in deed. Well, fancy that.

They are calling for the “treacherous” Remainer Chancellor Philip Hammond to be sacked. This is yet more muddle and faint-heartedness. The problem isn’t Hammond. The problem is Mrs May.

The reason for the Brexit drift is that Mrs May has shown zero leadership. Apparently with no firm views of her own and paralysed by doubt and indecision, she has created a vacuum in Downing Street which is being filled by the senior civil service, Remainers all, who are manoeuvring Britain into the kind of compromise deal which will turn Brexit into a cynical charade.

Britain has by far the stronger hand in these negotiations because the EU needs Britain more than Britain needs the EU. Yet Mrs May has played this as if Britain has the weaker hand and is a supplicant at the EU table.

Donald Trump had this right in the remarks he made in his interview with Piers Morgan last night.

“Well, would it be the way I negotiate?” he said. “No, I wouldn’t negotiate the way it was negotiated. But I have a lot of respect for your Prime Minister, and I think they’re doing a job. I think I would have negotiated it differently. I would have had a different attitude. I think I would have said that the European Union is not cracked up to what it’s supposed to be, and I would have taken a tougher stand in getting out”.

Like Isaiah Berlin’s famous hedgehog, Trump often knows one big thing. And the one big thing he knows about Brexit is that Britain has a great future as an independently-governed nation while the EU is an economic and political basket-case. But Mrs May is playing this precisely back to front.

Trump said something else in that interview of no small significance. “I have a lot of problems with the European Union… it’s not a question of doing business. But I will tell you, representing the United States, it’s a very unfair situation. We cannot get our product in. It’s very very tough. And yet they send their product to us – no taxes, very little taxes, it’s very unfair. I’ve had a lot of problems with the European Union, and it may morph into something very big from that standpoint, from a trade standpoint. The European Union has treated the United States very unfairly when it came to trade. They’re not the only ones by the way. I could name many countries and places that do. But the European Union has been very very unfair to the United States, and I think it’ll turn out to be very much to their detriment.”

What Trump is saying is that the EU’s regulations and distortions to protect itself from competition (heaven forbid) make it an unattractive partner for an American trade deal. He is effusive, however, about trade possibilities with the UK. Put that together and it means he will only give Britain a good trade deal if it frees itself completely from the EU. If Britain ends up still shackled in some way to EU laws or regulations, Trump won’t be interested.

Britain clearly has a choice: to continue to tie itself to the EU basket-case and thus fetter British entrepreneurialism, progress and prosperity; or choose freedom and a trading future with an America which is regaining its faith in itself and has the economic winds in its sails blowing potential prosperity towards all.

A no-brainer? Of course. But the brutal difference between Trump and May is this: Trump believes in the inherent greatness of his country and in his own ability to deliver a better future for its people; May does not believe in hers.

That’s why she’s got to go, and be replaced by a true, rock-solid, unequivocal Brexiteer who does.

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