Over the past 24-hours two senior officials in Theresa May’s government have resigned due to differences in what kind of Brexit each seeks.
And frankly, it’ll be a blessing. Far less paint will be peeled off the walls each week at 10 Downing Street if you catch my meaning.
Even though both David Davis and Boris Johnson were and are strong proponents of Brexit (which Prime Minister Theresa May also claims to be) governing the country becomes an impossible task when three people fight each other daily to steer the ship of state.
Every Prime Minister must tolerate some division within the party caucus to be sure. Less so, but still important is to allow a variety of views within Cabinet so that it doesn’t become a sterile place where ideas go to die. But there comes a point when too much division becomes the main issue — instead of the people’s business being the main issue.
Which is why it’s important Theresa May stuck to her guns and didn’t make any last-minute deals (of a kind that a lesser PM might have made) to keep the crew together. Not that Davis and Johnson are going anywhere as they’ll remain Conservative Party backbenchers.
Certainly, Margaret Thatcher would’ve told Davis and Johnson to ‘go fish’ some time ago and probably would have physically evicted them from the room. 😉 (You never knew with Maggie!)
Whether You Agree with Davis and Johnson or Not, this Streamlines Whatever Brexit Modality Theresa May Pursues
While some would like the strongest possible Brexit — Britain’s future will be better with a Brexit agreement that doesn’t ruin relations with the EU, one that includes some kind of reasonable free trade deal, one that allows the UK and the EU to cooperate on a wide range of issues such as, but not limited to; A common rulebook where and when feasible, the Galileo project, the ECJ (where UK courts would include, but not be limited or bound by ECJ rulings and opinions) NATO, and agreeable relations or even membership with other important European institutions.
Theresa May’s sole goal (it seems) is to get a deal with the EU. Which is a noble goal in itself.
The flip side of that is when the agreement Theresa May intends to present is so diluted that her Cabinet walks out the door. Yet, the Prime Minister may still be proven right by events yet to unfold.
It’s obvious to all but the most politically tone-deaf that no matter what agreement is presented to the EU mandarins, it is likely to be swiftly rejected. Including Theresa May’s super-diplomatic, uber-polite and overly-soft Brexit proposals.
But if That’s the Case, Why Try at All?
As an experienced bureaucrat slogging it out in the Home Office for a decade Theresa May knows something that hardcore Brexiteers don’t. And that is, those who get ‘stuck with the bill’ wind up paying many times over.
Let’s look at three scenarios, and let’s see who gets stuck with the bill:
- Hard Brexit faction presents an uncompromising Brexit deal to the EU: The European Union declines the deal offered and the blame is on Britain ‘for being so unreasonable’ and from that point on… every single thing that ever goes wrong in Europe, the World, and the Solar System… will be the fault of *those* unreasonable Brexiteers. And it’s not that EU people are evil, it’s just human nature to feel that way when jilted.
- Soft Brexit faction presents a soft agreement for signing in Brussels which is accepted by the EU: It’s seen as a ‘Win-Win’ for both sides. But the EU ‘wins’ by a slight margin and when you’ve effectively ‘dumped your partner’ sometimes it’s a good thing to let them ‘win’ a little bit. The worst that can happen in such a case is that the next UK Prime Minister will try to improve the deal and may or may not succeed in that endeavor. Likely, as time rolls on, both sides will arrive at a better agreement and both can claim credit with their respective voters for any future agreements. Not a bad scenario at all.
- Soft Brexit faction presents a soft agreement for signing in Brussels which *isn’t* accepted by the EU: At that point, the British can walk away from the table knowing in their hearts and with the whole world as a witness that they ‘tried their best’ to accommodate the concerns of the people in Brussels but they just couldn’t strike a deal. (A sort of ‘no fault’ divorce) And Brexit proceeds on a WTO-style basis with a flurry of à la carte agreements signed following March 29, 2019 allowing EU cars to be sold in the UK and UK airlines to operate over continental Europe, for two examples.
In scenario #1: Britain and the Hard Brexiteers get stuck with the bill for about the next century. Maybe longer. ‘Those intransigent Brits! A bloody difficult people they are!’
In scenario #2: Britain gets stuck with the larger part of the bill and in the following years must work incrementally towards the final Brexit arrangements they were originally seeking. ‘Damn, Theresa, couldn’t you do any better? Oh well, we got a Brexit of sorts, you’re forgiven.’
In scenario #3: The EU gets stuck with the bill and the world decrying EU intransigence. And Theresa May *probably* gets re-elected in a landslide.
[Theresa May as Admiral Holdo, David Davis and Boris Johnson as Poe Dameron et al.]
The present Brexit moment is similar to those frantic scenes in Star Wars: The Last Jedi where Poe Dameron and his compadres tried and failed to stage a coup against Vice-Admiral Holdo (who didn’t have the best slate of options from which to choose, and consequently didn’t have the best plan, but in the end it was the only plan that could have worked) and essentially the people on good side of the Force got the result they wanted.
The lesson from this story is that when the chips are down and you *must* bring home a win *always* go with the plan that is guaranteed to *work*. Which in the real world often isn’t the most glorious, most exciting, nor the most popular plan. Unfortunately.
But when a plan works, it’s a win. And beautiful or ugly, if the plan works that’s all that matters.
May the Force be with You, Theresa May!
Written by John Brian Shannon