Hearing reports this morning that Theresa May has more chance of getting her EU deal through if it is accompanied by her resignation. That might well be true, but it does make you wonder, why? Is there some sentiment going on here? I’ll let you have this one result, as long as it’s your last?
It raises an eyebrow because I don’t detect sentiment playing any other part in this process.
I mean, it is a shame that we have come to this, but I think the last thing we needed for this process was somebody who leads from the front, and expects everybody else to follow. Membership of the EU is something that has always been a hot topic, since before I was born. People have long held all sorts of opinions on the issue, and you’re not going to be able to browbeat somebody into giving their support.
I think the job required somebody who was able to take all these opposing views and hash out something that would keep most people happy. A negotiator, somebody with a gift for listening to a variety of opinions and coming up with a compromise. Not least, you have to talk to the EU and see what they want, plus, you have to talk to the UK (Parliament, say) and find out what it wants. Then you have to codify something which is acceptable to both.
I mean, maybe even that wouldn’t have been enough? Maybe when you have one side which says “I want X” and another side which says “I want Not X”, you are doomed to failure? But, encouragingly, I have heard several MPs talk about respecting the 2016 vote, yet engineering Brexit so as best to protect our affluence. Even somebody like Anna Soubry, I’m sure seen as a troublemaker in many quarters, has said this. This seems totally fair enough to me. Unfortunately, I’ve also heard many people talk about how we can ignore the 2016 vote, and they’re still doing so. I don’t think that’s helpful. Frankly, I don’t think that anybody who’s just said “I think it is best that we remain”, party leaders, ex-leaders or no, has been helpful here. If you start ignoring votes in favour of what you believe in, then you’re a despot. I don’t want to live under a despot, so straight away you lose credibility as far as I’m concerned. This goes for the many small parties, some of which I have supported in the past, who can’t get past undoing the 2016 vote, not least by trying to concoct reasons why the poll was invalid. So, I’m afraid that straight away, some people would not be happy with the end result, no matter how reconciliatory it was. But even somebody like Ken Clarke, who is an avid Remainer, and has said in no uncertain terms how dumb Brexit is, has been constructive and has proposed some plans for our future relationship with the EU.
I don’t buy this argument that this is a binary choice, either – you’re either in or you’re out. Nice and simple, but we learned over the last 3 years, there are degrees of whether you’re in our out. If you stayed in, then the UK already has some opt-outs, notably on the Euro. So, treaties were agreed which allowed the UK to have different terms to somewhere like Italy, say. Same on the other side. If you ultimately leave, say, then how close do you stay to the EU? WTO? Customs Union? So I think there are degrees here.
Funny, one of the things that Cameron said he tried, during the 2010-2015 Parliament, was to reform the UK’s relationship with the EU. He didn’t get anywhere, I wonder if he even tried? I wonder if his attempts just fell on deaf ears? I wonder if those people in power in the EU have any regrets that reform never happened, just in terms of keeping its citizenry happy? Happy enough not to want to leave, at least? It’s not as if the UK is the only malcontent, just that we’ve taken it further than anybody else has so far. I wonder if Cameron has any regrets that he didn’t try harder?
So I think a country’s relationship with the EU has been, and can be, bespoke.
Getting back to May, I think if there were one word to remind me of her time, it would be “listen”. It’s ironic, really, because to me, Corbyn always seemed to want to be a chairman, a moderator, rather than somebody who just says “I want us to do X – have faith and follow me”. Don’t get me wrong – I think Corbyn has his own issues, not least his followers, but I think in this case a chairman would have been ideal. It is good to encourage the people around you to be creative, rather than just expecting them to follow.