The impact of the Windrush scandal and Amber Rudd’s resignation on Theresa May’s everlasting Brexit struggle.
Let’s think about the Brexit impact of the Windrush scandal and Amber Rudd’s resignation. (To be clear, this isn’t the most important aspect of it all, but Rudd’s resignation does make for more of a connection.)
Let’s start with Amber Rudd herself.
Her resignation causes assorted Brexit headaches for Theresa May and the Conservatives.
Most obviously, the long-mentioned ‘Brexit balance’ in Cabinet needs attention. May will need to give some thought how to keep this.
The new Home Secretary needs to be senior enough to handle and head off the Windrush scandal, but also a soft Brexiter, which might knock out some obvious choices.
Theresa May could reshuffle people around, but that didn’t go well last time. Is May willing to try moving Jeremy Hunt along once more, for example?
(Update: Theresa May has since appointed Sajid Javid as new Home Secretary.)
Amber Rudd’s next move also matters, especially if she hangs her hat with Anna Soubry on the backbench. Come the ‘meaningful vote’ time, that might count for a lot.
V sorry that @AmberRuddHR has resigned. She is a woman of great courage & immense ability. Amber will be missed in many ways. We’ll give her a huge welcome on to our back benches. If there is any justice she will soon return to the highest of office. Proud to call her my friend.— Anna Soubry MP (@Anna_Soubry) April 29, 2018
However, Rudd might want to keep powder dry, both because she might want to get back into the Cabinet at some point, and because the Windrush scandal has tainted anything she now says.
Beyond Rudd, all this eats up the bandwidth that the UK Government doesn’t really have. The Article 50 process is moving to critical phase, and the UK Government needs to advance the debate on the Irish dimension, so reshuffling comes at a bad time.
This is especially true if Theresa May wants to turn the ship on the EU Customs Union and Single Market. Her capital was already minimal post 2017 General Election, and this affair doesn’t help at all.
In case you're wondering if Javid shares Rudd's pro-EU sentiment, here's what he said on eve of referendum: “With a heavy heart and no enthusiasm, I shall be voting for the UK to remain a member of the European Union.” https://t.co/hF3YpGa3E4— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) April 30, 2018
My working assumption is that May has only survived because no one can be sure who will replace her, and because it is easier to let her own the problems of Brexit.
The white knight will pop up in April 2019 to grumble how ‘she let us all down’.
The Windrush situation potentially shifts this, especially for soft Brexiters, who might see a window to push for a more liberal approach to immigration and post-EU rels.
However this plays out, the main upshot is that the UK Government will continue not to be fully on the ball in the Article 50 process, so the European Commission is likely to find a continued policy gap.
That makes big advances for the June EU Council less likely, which in turn hardens the Irish options back to C, which makes Theresa May’s autumn even more painful.
Most of it all (for the Prime Minister) is that Amber Rudd’s departure isn’t going to sort out anything on Windrush; Questions will continue to be asked of her (and her judgement), both narrowly and generally.
When asked if she should take personal responsibility for the Windrush scandal, Theresa May says her government is "dealing with illegal immigration" pic.twitter.com/YqyqexVoZu— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 30, 2018
2 urgent questions: 1. @HackneyAbbott asking @theresa_may if she will make a statement on the Government’s handling of the Windrush scandal @RLong_Bailey asking @GregClarkMP if he will make a statement on the proposed merger of Sainsbury’s and Asda— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) April 30, 2018
Back in the Summer 2016, Theresa May seemed to have played a blinder, putting people into roles where they had to make good on their EU referendum campaigning. Now, it looks even more like being too clever.
And before I go, let’s not forget that the Windrush scandal in general hasn’t reassured the EU27 and the EU Commission about the fate of their EU citizens. Expect more on that front in the coming weeks.
In summary, it is another awful chapter in Theresa May’s path through Brexit. Not yet life-threatening, but not good for anyone involved.🔷
(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)