Disintegrating Tories will void May’s pledge for Brexit deal in seven weeks

Prime Minister Theresa May in China met with President Xi Jinping. Here the May couple drinks Chinese tea with the country’s leader. (Taken on February 1, 2018. UK government work, public domain).

Last Friday, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, said from China, where she was on official visit, that in seven weeks she will have a Brexit transition deal with the EU. Surely, nobody believes her. The reason is that her Tory governing party is so deeply split over the Brexit terms, up to the point that they have rendered democratic Britain into an ungovernable country.

In detail now, May, while in Shanghai, gave an interview to a prominent BBC journalist. When asked about the terms of the transition period after the official Brexit date of 29 March 2019 (it will last until the end of 2020), she answered “In seven weeks time, we will have an agreement with the European Union that is the timetable they have said on an implementation period.”

However, at the same time and from the same place somewhere else in the Shanghai Stock Exchange huge building complex, her Trade Minister Liam Fox, a hard Brexit champion said, “It is very difficult to see how being in a customs union is compatible with having an independent trade policy because we would therefore be dependent on what the EU negotiated in terms of its trading policies and we’d be following behind that.” He was also speaking to a major global news network. Let’s see what Fox exactly said.

Trade minister v May

To be noted, according to what the European Union negotiators have only too clearly stated and Theresa May has accepted, the offer of a transition period after Brexit up to the end of 2020, includes a freezing of the present status. This means nothing will change during it. It will be exactly like today’s standing of full UK membership of the club. Obviously, Britain during this period has to comply one hundred per cent with the EU rules, of course including the EU external trade terms and conditions, irrespective of what Britain plans to do after 2020.

There is more to it though. During the transition period the unobstructed access to the EU markets and the full participation in the customs union, goes together with the free movement of EU citizens in Britain, the preponderance of the European Court and EU’s legislation plus full payment of membership dues. All those terms are ‘red cloth’ for at least half the governing Tory party deputies.

Mad at the EU

It’s not the first time this party is deeply divided even ousting its leaders and prime ministers on differences about European Union issues. Actually, serving Tory Prime Ministers have been ousted from the leadership of the party, also losing, consequently, the country’s top job. Margaret Thatcher was forced to resign in 1990, during her third term as prime minister. Her party the Tories let her down in relation to a plan to introduce a European Union tax. It regarded the introduction of a new duty charge, related with the functioning of the then European Community.

The latest victim of the Tory split about whatever is related to the EU was David Cameron. He resigned from the party leadership and as prime minister, after having won a surprise absolute majority in the 2015 general election. He announced his decision to resign the next after losing the June 2016 referendum, where he had vigorously led the Remain campaign.

The impossible hope

Unfortunately for the Brexiteer Tories, they are now stuck with Theresa May as Prime Minister. If they oust her as many of them loudly wish, they would be confronted with the possibility of losing the next general election to the Labour Party and its old style socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn. So, they are cornered in the present Parliament, where the Remainers have a clear absolute majority. As a result, Brexiteer Tories’ only but impossible hope is to press May – initially a Remainer herself – so hard as to somehow, magically, she could pass their own aggressive and wild Brexit version in a Remainers House of Commons.

The governing Tories are also divided in relation to the party’s position, regarding the after Brexit future of London City golden eggs laying goose. The City needs full access to the EU markets if it is to continue producing more than 10% of Britain’s GDP, using just a single square mile of the country’s soil. The problem for the City’s financial hub is though, that only a few legislators really care about its future. In reality, only very lately there is some interest in the parliament even in the Labour benches, for the future of the financial sharks, who have made the City what it is today. The Tories are also deeply divided about that.

Multiple fractures

On the other shore of the English Channel, mainland Europeans are not willing to take care of the City’s worries, without a substantially watered down Brexit. Last Thursday, the European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said “Britain’s financial companies can either establish full-blown subsidiaries in the European Union after Brexit or fall back on financial regulatory “equivalence”. This means the London financiers after Brexit have to either pay too dearly their relocation to mainland or Britain has to apply the entire package of the relevant EU legislation (equivalent) in order the City to continue producing 10% of UK’s GDP.

This last case though also includes the preponderance of the European Courts and the full supervisory authority of Brussels, an anathema for the Brexiteer Tories. But in the case of a hard or wild Brexit it’s clearly impossible for the City’s financial hub to retain its ‘passport’ of doing business in the mainland from its London offices. Again, the Tory party is so deeply divided about these alternatives, up to the point to look like two different and ideologically opposite political groups. It seems it’s the fate of Tories to disintegrate, every time there is a European Union issue at stake.

Is there a solution?

Given all that, May’s statement about having an after Brexit transition deal within seven weeks is at least over optimistic. Under no circumstances the Tory party can agree to either a watered down Brexit or a hard one. The division is so deep and the stakes so high, that the 1990 demise of the powerful and triumphant Margaret Thatcher over a measly ‘community tax’, looks like a children’s play.

In conclusion, Britain under the Tories is really ungovernable. The country’s sonly chance to overcome this existential predicament is to elect a Labour government in an early election, as the only way to unite the Tories in ‘a free of charge’ opposition to a generously diluted Brexit, the House of Commons would vote for with a clear majority.

 

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