May’s negotiating stance? Please, please, please let me get what I want

PUBLISHED: 15:29 02 March 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech at the Mansion House in London on the UK's economic partnership with the EU after Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech at the Mansion House in London on the UK's economic partnership with the EU after Brexit.

PA Wire/PA Images

Everyone scoffed when Boris Johnson said Britain could “have its cake and eat it” outside the European Union.

And yet it seems Theresa May has chosen that slice of nonsense as the government’s starting position for negotiations.

The prime minister apparently wants all the plus points of a soft Brexit – no tariffs, deals across certain sectors and membership of some agencies. But she wants all this outside the customs union and single market.

Frankly, this is a very big ask and is likely to be met with shaking heads in Brussels.

And on the major sticking point of the Irish border there remained little detail in her speech – or at least little sensible detail. Surely leaving the checks the same as they are now (none existent) for 80% of those passing through provides a smugglers charter? These are not solutions to this potential flashpoint but hopeful, half-baked ideas.

But at least there was some realism. She recognised there would have to be compromise on both sides – a swipe at both the EU and Brexiteers in her own party – and acknowledged the UK’s own responsibilities when it came to Brexit.

There were appeals to strike the most comprehensive trade deal in the world – but are “appeals” really going to impress the EU team? Does our prime minister really believe that saying “please, please, please” enough times will work?

She said her message to Brussels was: “We know what we want. We understand your principles. We have a shared interest in getting this right. Let’s get on with it.” Don’t panic everyone – that should do it. Phew.

As a set piece setting out the route ahead can anyone really say we are any clearer?

So who should be happier? Leaver or Remainer? In her ongoing bid to keep both happy – she admitted the UK’s wounds were still far from cured – she has just added to the confusion. Prepare for the fudge everyone should fear.

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