SIXTEEN years ago, as conference chairman, Theresa May told the Tories that some saw them as “the nasty party”. Well, I have news for her as she goes back to Brussels today to negotiate Brexit: she ain’t nasty enough.
She has been wasting her time if she thinks eternal reasonableness will get you anywhere with the EU. With their inferiority complex vis-à-vis the UK, there is nothing its Franco-German bosses and their lackeys like better than to take a rise out of us.
Never forget that, in her relentless battle to reduce Britain’s excessive contribution to the then EC budget, Margaret Thatcher got only two-thirds of a loaf. In spite of her efforts. the EU remains a protectionist club.
They took not a blind bit of notice when she warned against the very movement that has brought Brexit – sinking member-nations in a European super-state.
And Mrs Thatcher never set out to be nice but to be effective.
Now the decent vicar’s daughter, Mrs May, is in a terrible fix. She has no natural majority in the Commons. Her party is not merely split, but her Government rebellious to the point of resignation over Brexit. She has a Civil Service that seems to be Europhile in spite of the referendum.
The Opposition’s policy is without principle. Whatever the PM comes away with Labour will vote against it, with the enthusiastic support of the hypocritical SNP. William Wallace: No deal on Brexit may well mean the end of the UK. Here’s why
Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be promising Armageddon if we leave the EU without a deal as “Project Fear” gets a new lease of life thanks to this week’s crunch talks in Brussels.
This is not to mention the Irish border which seems to be much ado about nothing, given the facility with which trade moves across the Channel. Irish cross-border traffic is nobbut a basketful compared with the volume of trade through our ports.
And the Northern Irish might be glad of a hard border if it becomes a backdoor for illegal immigrants.
Mrs May is reduced to pleading with moderate Labour MPs, mostly with anti-EU electorates, to back her – or pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn government that would ditch them at the earliest opportunity.
She is also relying on ardent Tory Brexiteers to support her lest they let in the dreaded Corbyn.
Having thus analysed her plight, I would, were I her Press secretary, also prescribe an escape. This is the note I would put before her before she leaves London:
1. This summit is billed as concentrating on migration and internal security. Brexit is supposed to be discussed at dinner. I say “proposed” because you know the EU has an unrivalled record for procrastination over difficult issues.
2. Assuming it faces up to Brexit for a change, your tenure as PM is not just at stake but so is Britain’s future as a reasonably prosperous, freedom-loving democracy – not the totalitarian wreck that Corbyn virtually guarantees.
3. This means that the very least you can return to London with is an indisputable exit with the UK intact and a stated date for the end of any transition period no later than December 31, 2020.
Britain has to be clear what it is voting for at the next election, due 2022. Only a clear return of sovereignty and independence with freedom to trade with the wide world will do.
4. Given that the EU wishes to keep us tied to its apron strings pour encourager les autres, you will have to chuck Chequers, preferably dramatically, and tell them in no uncertain terms that if they want continued stability in Europe to which the UK is essential they had better deliver. Corbyn offers only chaos.
5. Not a penny of our ridiculous £39bn exit fee will be paid without a free trade agreement.
6. Without any hesitation, you can promise that, if your minimum demands are met, they can count on your Government – and your Government alone – playing a constructive role in European defence and Western affairs.
7. You must make sure that they understand very clearly that they have got themselves in very bad odour in Britain by their pettiness and negativism. Remind them that the British want to leave because they think their federalism is unviable and dangerous.
8. If they hum and ha you must, for once, get very nasty indeed. It may be against you nature, but anything else could be misinterpreted as weakening.
Be strong. Britain – and your tenure – depend on it. Serve the people. They have spoken and said “Out”.