With reports emerging that Mrs May has agreed a deal with the EU even before her own cabinet has approved it, it is up to the Brexiteers in Parliament to take action to halt her. Her Leave-supporting backbenchers have had opportunities to oust the duplicitous May before, but have not acted. Now they must.
It is worth remembering just how much she is trying to betray. On June 23, 2016, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in the greatest display of peaceful democracy the nation has ever seen. After 43 years of membership of the EEC/EC/EU, in which time it morphed from a trading arrangement to an all-invasive proto-superstate, 17.4million people voted to reclaim our sovereignty and independence.
Despite howls of rage from Remainers after the vote, many senior political figures accepted the referendum result and went on record to say that to try to overturn the result would be treacherous. These included Theresa May, who campaigned to remain in the EU, but ended up as Prime Minister in the political bloodletting afterwards. For nearly two years, Mrs May has promised that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ and that anything less than the whole nation leaving the Single Market and Customs Union is a betrayal of democracy.
Many believed from the beginning that May was neither a woman to be trusted nor a woman of her word. This was demonstrated in the spring of 2017 when she called a snap general election, despite promising numerous times that she wouldn’t do so, ‘because stability was more important to the nation’. ‘Strong and stable’ was her catchphrase, but her disastrous election campaign left her leadership decidedly weak and wobbly.
Her Chequers Plan destroyed any last vestiges of credibility. It was a plan which was unworkable and universally loathed, by Brexiteers, Remainers and the EU. Her idea of adhering to a common rulebook meant in essence that the UK would continue to obey the regulations of the EU Commission and decisions of the EU Court of Justice, in the position of a vassal state. The idea that the UK would make any meaningful contribution to the rulebook was laughable. In addition, her cumbersome and unworkable plan for a customs partnership was immediately rejected by the EU. It is astounding that she kept on banging the Chequers drum for so long.
This was not the Brexit that the people voted for, where we would take back control of our sovereignty, borders, laws, trade, fishing grounds, agriculture and money, and keep control of our military.
It would be almost impossible to conceive that she could come up with a worse plan, but that seems to be what has happened. She has chucked Chequers, but sold us out with a proposal that strikes a dagger blow at the heart of our democracy.
In a negotiation, the idea is to go for the best deal. When the EU proposed a backstop of a border in the Irish Sea, with Northern Ireland in the Customs Union, anyone with an ounce of sense would have said ‘On your bike, Barnier!’ Theresa May instead said ‘OK, Monsieur Barnier; how about the whole of the UK stays in the Customs Union? And you can keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market too.’ This is not a negotiation, it is a giveaway. Far from her protestations that she leads the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’, she is not just considering, but proposing, the first step in breaking up the Union.
In an almost divinely fortuitous twist of fate, however, the mathematics of the current Parliament (thanks to her own ill-judged general election) left her short of a majority, and dependent on a confidence and supply arrangement with Northern Ireland’s DUP to prop up her government. The DUP are now threatening to end this agreement, and potentially bring down her government. Yet it will not be they who have broken the agreement, but Theresa May in accepting even the possibility of a regulatory border down the middle of the Irish Sea. If the DUP decide they will not back Mrs May in Parliament any longer, they have every right to do so, for she has betrayed them and the nation.
The difference in rhetoric on Brexit between the two parties is stark. Mrs May no longer talks of ‘no deal being better than a bad deal’. In her party conference speech she demanded that her restive MPs should back her plan or there might not be any Brexit at all. She stated: ‘If we all go off in different directions in pursuit of our own visions of the perfect Brexit – we risk ending up with no Brexit at all,’ speaking to representatives of the British people as though they were naughty schoolchildren.
The DUP in contrast have made it clear that their ‘blood-red line’ is that the Union must remain intact and have strongly reiterated that no deal is better than a bad deal. May’s new plan, which splits up the Union, keeps the UK locked inside the Customs Union, prevents us from making trade deals of our own, keeps the UK in vassalage as a rule-taker, and requires us to pay £39,000,000,000 for the ‘privilege’, is a very bad deal.
With her own Brexiteer backbenchers seemingly paralysed, it may well be that the DUP saves Brexit.