Remainers loathe Trump for calling Brexit ‘a great thing’. Others disapprove of his reality show past, his hairstyle, his choosing Jerusalem for US embassy in Israel…
British Prime Minister Theresa May is clinging to her Chequers Deal for exiting the European Union in an effort to retain control of her idea of leaving the union. Brexiteers are adamant this does not reflect the impression she gave when she repeatedly said “Brexit means Brexit” during her 2017 Lancaster House speech. So far it is understood, the PM’s DExEU plan changes very little except the name of the existing arrangements or the way they are carried out. The detailed 120-page White Paper published on Thursday was a disappointment to Leavers, as it does not mirror the Lancaster House speech. It was reported that May had shown it to Chancellor Merkel for approval before her own Cabinet, which is considered unconstitutional.
The EU’s first response to the Chequers Deal was unimpressed. May has indicated flexibility, but that typically involves compromise, which will not be acceptable to those who hold the PM accountable to her 2017 manifesto promises.
Following the Checkers Summit and the principled resignations of the Brexit Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, a Parliamentary Private Secretary, an MP and of two Conservative Party Deputy Chairmen, the Prime Minister’s team has pressurised ardent Leavers like Andrea Leadsom (Leader of the House of Commons and MOS) and James Cleverly (Deputy Chairman of the Tory Party) to support her; the Prime Minister is enforcing “collective responsibility” for her ideas. When these ideas have been promoted by Leavers on social media, the replies have been brutal, accusing the promoter of hypocrisy. One Conservative Association has written to Brandon Lewis, the Conservative Party Chairman: “The dissatisfaction currently being shown with the performance of Theresa May and her cabinet regarding the so-called negotiations for Brexit has reached such proportions as threat to the future of our party.” The letter signs off calling for May’s replacement, while there is still time to reassess the UK’s position. MPs’ postbags and newspaper letter pages contain more than usual sentiments of betrayal, the word used most often is capitulation. A poll on Wednesday concluded that 64% do not trust Theresa May to get UK the best possible Brexit deal and Labour are now two points ahead in the polling.
Like Minister Andrea Jenkyns before them, both Boris Johnson’s and David Davis’ resignation letters made it painstakingly clear they had lost confidence in the PM’s intention to deliver the goals of Brexit. The Eurosceptic European Reform Group (ERG) convened their most well attended meeting ever, the chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg (JRM) and other Tory backbenchers have tabled four amendments to the half-cocked Trade Bill, which goes to Parliament on Monday. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which the PM relies on for her majority in Westminster, has backed one amendment, signalling they are not unconditionally committed to supporting the PM. Although JRM has said he will personally not call for a leadership challenge, the ERG’s moves blatantly demonstrate that trust is irrevocably broken and intentionally weaken the PM.
Meanwhile, Gavin Barwell, the No. 10 Chief of Staff, is giving briefings soliciting the support of Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs, hoping to compensate for the lack of Conservative support on Monday. Relying on the support of the opposition benches is an unusual position for a PM to find herself in. But the opposition might see an opportunity to arrest the bill from going to Brussels and damage the PM further.
Since the resignations the key positions in government are now occupied by committed Remainers: the PM, the Chancellor, the new Foreign Secretary and the European Advisor to the PM, who many say, is the de facto Brexit Secretary, whose sobriquet is “Ollie the Commie”. Although loud banging was heard on the PM’s arrival at the 1922 Committee meeting, it is understood this was out of tradition, and not appreciation. The Whips are now asking MPs to withdraw their no confidence letters to Graham Brady of the 1922, as No. 10 fears the magic number of 48 that is required to force a leadership challenge is fast approaching.
What are the options for the PM? First to revisit the DExEU proposal to make it more acceptable to critics; to follow WTO rules from 29 March 2019; or move to the unpopular/unprepared for No Deal; or shamefully, No Brexit.
All this turmoil is against the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s working visit to the UK between 12 July and 15 July. Remainers loathe Trump for calling Brexit “a great thing”. Other people disapprove of his reality show past, his hairstyle, his choosing Jerusalem for the US embassy in Israel, his derogatory comments about women, but mostly for his cruel family separation migration policies. The Stop Trump campaign includes a 2004 song by Green Day called “American Idiot”, originally written for George W. Bush, which Trump deniers expect to reach the No 1 slot. A motley gang of thousands mustered up by Amnesty International and London Mayor Sadiq Khan humiliated the US President by flying a 20-foot giant inflatable blimp of a Trump lookalike baby in nappies above Parliament Square and marching under a banner of #BringTheNoise.
All this acrimony makes London seem immature and uncooperative. Fortunately, the President was entertained by HM the Queen at Windsor Castle and the Prime Minister at Chequers and his “friend” former Foreign Secretary/chief Brexiteer Boris Johnson somewhere off the beaten track, all of whom will have respect for the Office of President and UK’s most important ally.