Steve Bullock’s take on the EU Council after Theresa May asked the EU27 some help with the Brexit deal.
The European Union set out ready to give as warm, non-binding words as possible, but Theresa May’s promises made in London, unfeasible asks, and unwillingness to face reality appear to have had the opposite effect.
As Sky News’ journalist Mark Stone points out, asking the EU27 to trust her judgment at this stage will not have reassured anyone. She promised the ERG legally binding reassurances that she was never, ever going to get.
The Prime Minister apparently made proposals to lock the EU27 into a future relationship that has not yet been negotiated, and to make the Political Declaration legally binding. Again, thinking either of these would fly hardly shows judgement.
She agreed to the Withdrawal Agreement and assured the EU27 she would get it ratified, and is now trying to re-open it because of how wrong she was.
Their judgement appears to have been, rightly, that there was nothing they could give her that would reassure the DUP and the ERG that the Backstop would, legally, be definitely temporary or unilaterally ended. Because it is not, and it cannot be.
Add to this that they have watched the Prime Minister misrepresent the deal, their deal, still promising frictionless trade outside the Single Market and Customs Union and trumpeting an end to rights for their and her own citizens as an massive achievement.
And that after two years of dishonesty, threats and insults from her, her ministers, and her parties’ MPs, impossible and self-contradictory policies, no deal better than a bad deal rhetoric (and an unwillingness to rule out no deal now), using their citizens as bargaining chips.
So, they do not and cannot trust her judgement, or trust her, her ministers, or her MPs. Goodwill and trust have evaporated.
Had May taken a conciliatory, consensus seeking approach from the beginning, and managed expectations properly, she may now be in the situation where the only opposition to the deal were the handful of butters in the ERG, but it is too late to look for cross-party support now.
This is a disaster for Theresa May, but it is a direct product of her and the rest of the Tory parties’ approach and actions.
The Prime Minister still has the time to avert No Deal and find a way out of this — an extension and a referendum looks most likely to do that to me — but it won’t be by Parliament approving the deal, and there won’t be another deal.
She can decide to press on all the way to No Deal instead. But that will be a decision — her decision — to take the UK over an appalling cliff edge with nothing but chaos, impoverishment and misery at the bottom of the fall.
Who knows if she would decide to do that, but Parliament and even her own Cabinet Ministers must act to make sure she doesn’t.
If they don’t, and Theresa May does decide to take the UK over the No Deal cliff, her legacy will not be as the Prime Minister who delivered Brexit. It will be as the Prime Minister who decided appalling harm to her own country and population was worth it to do so.🔷
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s conscent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)