Cerberus: May needs to put an end to Brexit summer squabbles

Like Margaret Thatcher before her, Theresa May has chosen the Swiss Alps for her summer holiday. She and her husband Philip have been pictured trekking through the mountains in coordinated outfits and sensible boots. The Prime Minister has said that she favours Switzerland for its “peace and quiet”. She could have added that it was outside the EU. But that would not have been conducive to her quest for thinking time.

Mrs Thatcher also liked the smack of firm government and rarely missed an opportunity to let her ministers know who was in charge. Mrs May is only a month into the job but already commentators are questioning her guiding philosophy. What is her vision for the country? What does she want to achieve? And, more specifically, what does she mean when she says Brexit means Brexit? It is hard to imagine that if Mrs Thatcher were in her kitten heels today she would have had so little to say about the biggest challenge facing this Government – or indeed any government of the last 40 years.

Predictably, with the Downing Street cat taking the mountain air, the ministerial mice are beginning to play. It may be the middle of August and the media may be full of the British gold rush in Rio, but the weekend papers still featured reports of Whitehall infighting over Brexit. According to The Sunday Times, ministers have been privately briefing the City that Brexit could be delayed to 2019, mainly because they are waiting for the results of the French and German elections next year.

The Sunday Telegraph unearthed a “feud” between Boris Johnson and Liam Fox with the International Trade Secretary demanding that the Foreign Secretary cede to him the FCO's economic diplomacy unit and concentrate on diplomacy and security. Boris has rejected the demand set out in a letter to him from Dr Fox amid signs that Mrs May’s Whitehall tinkering (creating two new departments to lead on Brexit) has sparked an old-fashioned turf war.

Meanwhile, The Mail on Sunday reported that Mrs May faces an autumn ambush from hardline Tory Eurosceptic MPs fearful that the absence of any road-map for quitting the EU signals that we are heading for “Brexit Lite”.

Her peace and quiet disturbed, according to ITV News, the Prime Minister has been forced to instruct Fox and Johnson to stop squabbling and get on with their job of constructing a Brexit plan that will work.

So far, these quarrels are little more than summer squalls and pose little threat to the impression of order and authority that Mrs May has swiftly brought to Downing Street. But time is not on her side. When Parliament returns next month and before the Tory party conference at the beginning of October, she needs to say far more about how she intends to go about severing Britain’s ties with the EU, her timetable for departure and her red lines in the divorce talks.

When will she trigger Article 50 and the two-year deadline for departure? When does she anticipate Britain formally leaving the EU? Does she envisage any trade off between UK access to the single market and curbs on the free movement of EU citizens to the UK? She should be aware that hardline Tory supporters of Brexit – who number as many as 50-100 in the Commons – will not tolerate any arrangements that fall short of the full restoration of national control of immigration.

Nigel Farage, sporting a much celebrated moustache, re-entered the fray at the weekend, warning of public anger and demonstrations if there was an attempt to fudge the outcome of the referendum. It was a timely intervention. Mrs May will need to show she has got a grip on her administration when she descends from the mountains.

(Image: FCO)


  • Colkitto03

    The remain dominated MSM seems to have embarked on a huge example of wishful thinking on this matter.
    Their hopeful yearning goes like this : May deliberately puts in three Leavers, knowing they must surely fail and then she can remain in Europe while blaming the unhappy trio.
    I wouldn’t deny them their fantasy, they need some straws to clutch onto.

  • photon

    “Mrs May will need to show she has got a grip on her administration when she descends from the mountains.”
    I would not expect to be long in her government if I behaved as if she hadn’t.

  • RingedPlover

    I don’t believe we will leave the EU. We will have had our chance but will fluff it. As the rest of European Civilization slides into oblivion, as it surely will, so will we. But at least I will know I voted to leave.

    • Andy

      Have faith. We WILL Leave.

      • RingedPlover

        Thanks. I go from optimism to pessimism; but I’m ever thankful I was able to make up for the 1970’s when I voted to stay in the Common Market, something I have regretted for many years. I just cannot understand why anyone would actually want to stay in, or join, the European Union.

        • Andy

          God may forgive you for that Sin. Least you have had a chance to right the wrong before you meet your maker.

          As to why anyone would wish to join the great Fascist Project I suppose if you are a little country it gives you an illusion of power, of playing global politics with the great powers, to be a ‘cat’ rather than always the ‘mouse’. But of course the reality is at the end of the day you are totally irrelevant.

        • Derek Phibes

          ” … when I voted to stay in the Common Market, something I have regretted for many years ”

          It was explicitly and repeatedly stated to the electorate then that there would be no loss of Sovereignty – joining the Common Market was for trade.

          If the politicians had been honest about the intention to create an European superstate over-ruling our Laws & deciding our policies then there would have been an overwhelming Brexit vote to exit the then Common Market.

          • Mez

            Totally true, in fact when we voted apparently, it was because Ted Heath had taken us in illegally, and the terminology of that vote could still make it illegal.

  • lol@bbcEUlost

    It’s the silly season, parliament is on their summer hols, nothing to report so the media just make up a load of bollox. I’m hoping to see more of this when parliament returns.

  • fubar_saunders

    “When will she trigger Article 50 and the two-year deadline for departure?”

    She wont. And even if she tries, Parliament wont wear it. 450/650 MPs including the leaders of all four Westminster main parties are remainers. It isnt going to happen.

    “She should be aware that hardline Tory supporters of Brexit – who number as many as 50-100 in the Commons – will not tolerate any arrangements that fall short of the full restoration of national control of immigration.”

    So these guys are willingly going to not only collapse the first tory majority since 1992, they’re going to be the turkeys that vote for Christmas, because of their Brexit principles? Not a chance. They’ll just grumble on the back benches, like they always do, but in reality will do nothing but shrug and say “well, it wasnt my fault”.

    If they believed in it that much, they’d cross the floor to UKIP.

    • Dr Evil

      She can use the Royal Prerogative any by pass those wretched remain MPs.

    • Andy

      You do not need Parliament to agree to Article 50. The Lisbon Treaty, which contains the Article, is not a part of UK Domestic Law. It is a clause in a Treaty and is therefore Prerogative. She would need Parliament to agree to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and it is this Act that gives the EU authority in the UK.

      • fubar_saunders

        Im sure you’re legally correct Andy. The cynic in me thinks that its not going to be quite as straightforward in achieving that as some er…. commentators may make out. I have the feeling (although I cant base it on anything but gut/intuition, I readily admit it) that somehow, there will be found some very long grass into which to hoof the results of the advisory only referendum.

        I hope I’m wrong, genuinely I do. I just have serious doubts that I am.

        • Andy

          Well where you might be part right is that I could see a situation where the rest of the EU offers something like ‘Associate Membership’, which would still have freedom of movement and free trade and perhaps reduced contributions to the budget. The FCO are daft enough to fall for it.

          Personally I have come to the conclusion that it might be best to just leave and bugg*r Article 50. I would repeal the 1972 and impose tariffs if the EU impose tariffs on us. Lets be honest: the EU wont offer a fair deal and will be awkward and difficult, so I see no reason not to be likewise. They could also throw a spanner in our WTO membership, but if we aren’t full members of WTO we can do as we like and hitting EU exports to us would be a priority !!

        • Mez

          The referendum is only advisory in so much as while in office MPs have been given power by the electorate, but our constitution means that the people not MPs are ultimately sovereign. On ting at power is handed back to the people. The outcome of the vote in England had it not be
          diluted by Sotland and Northern Ireland, was a landslide for Brexit. The can’t escape that, or what that means for this democracy if it’s ignored. The issue for MPs and Brexit light or whatever that means, is retaining Scotland in the UK.

  • Don Benson

    Mrs May’s style has always been to keep her head down, bob up to say all the usual things at Party Conference and then disappear again. Her supporters try to make us believe she is a grafter who quietly gets things done while a lot of her colleagues faff around enjoying the limelight.

    The problem is she is now Prime Minister: she must lead from the front. That means making herself clear to the whole nation, not just her circle of trusted Conservative MPs. At present we cannot trust her because of her track record as a minister, because her utterances are minimal, because she is a ‘remainer’ and, most importantly, because her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ statement is insulting in its vacuity.

    Too much more of her enigmatic silence and we will hardly avoid concluding that she is a follower of Machiavelli rather than Margaret.

  • Dr Evil

    It won’t be demonstrations, it will be a revolution.

  • Andy

    Problem is the Foreign Office is wholeheartedly opposed to Brexit because it goes against their policy of the last 60 years. I think they will do everything within their power to make a mess of it so a powerful case can be made to rejoin in a few years. A radical approach not just from the FCO but also from the Treasury could spark a major revolution in our economy. But to do this you need men of true vision and determination. There was never a time more ripe for such a revolution. We could become one of the richest countries on earth.

    • getahead

      If we had stayed in the EU we wouldn’t have needed a Foreign Office.

      • WuffoTheWonderDog

        That as it our FO doesn’t handle progressive conclusions.

    • Colkitto03

      Quite agree Andy,
      Im sure that when Marie Antionette said ‘let them eat cake’ it was, im sure, just ‘advisory’ That did not end well.
      Brexit is the biggest opportunity for this country in 50 years. if it is ignored then the establishment will pay a big price.

  • sylvesterthecat

    The whole EU issue is beset by if, buts and maybes which is doing Teresa May and her government no good at all. Unless she starts to reveal her thinking as to how matters will progress, the Electorate, or at least 17.5 million of them will get rather annoyed.
    She would do well to remember that these people were the people who refused to believe Cameron’s lies about the EU and made their own mind it. I doubt that any ‘jolly japes’ from Mrs May would go down well. Yet she still has a fair amount of goodwill which came with the election victory but any bet hedging or backsliding would be fatal. I do not know how many true blue, always reliable, voters the Conservative party has left. I am NOT one of them but I will support the Govenment (& the Tories) as long, and only as long, as Mrs May keeps faith with the 17.5 million.
    BREXIT means BREXIT.

    • WuffoTheWonderDog

      May is for remain and is prevaricating, hoping that the plebs will forget about Brexit amid the flurry of knighthoods for splendid Englishmen like Mo Farrah. She will say nothing about getting our fishing grounds back and stopping the disgrace of good fish catches being thrown back because Brussels says so. She and the Tories want to keep us shackled to the EU corpse.

  • John P Hughes

    Her Majesty’s speech opening the new session of the Scottish Parliament on 2 July 2016, a week after the Referendum result was known, is surely the leitmotiv for us all. See the full text here:

    The message to us was conveyed very cleverly using this opportunity perfectly:

    “We all live and work in an increasingly complex and demanding world, where events and developments can, and do, take place at remarkable speed; and retaining the ability to stay calm and collected can at times be hard……
    “One hallmark of leadership in such a fast-moving world is allowing sufficient room for quiet thinking and contemplation, which can enable deeper, cooler consideration of how challenges and opportunities can be best addressed.”

    This needs repeating throughout the next year if we are to reach a successful new set of diplomatic and economic relationships in Europe. Theresa May has surely taken notice of what the Queen has said. It is time for others to do the same.