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Listening to Theresa May’s speech on Brexit the other day, I was deeply, deeply impressed.
It is a stunning achievement to be able to stand in front of the world’s cameras, read out a 7,000 word speech and still say absolutely nothing.
A full 20 months after the referendum we are still no closer to knowing what Brexit means and, frankly, as one who believes passionately in getting out of the EU, I’m getting a bit embarrassed. Like my Remainer friends, I just want to know what the Hell is going on. Listen to this drivel from the PM as she set out her five key tests for Brexit.
She said: “The agreement we reach with the EU must respect the referendum.”
Well, you don’t say! And then she claims: “It was a vote for wider change, so that no community in Britain would ever be left behind again.”
What utter, utter cobblers.
The referendum question asked if we wanted to remain in the EU or leave. It said damn all about anything else. Nothing about the Customs Union, nothing about the Single Market and absolutely nothing at all about left-behind communities.
It’s the simplicity of the Brexit question that makes everything else she had to say meaningless.
Mrs May says “It was not a vote for a distant relationship with our neighbours.”
How does she know?
She says we have to get a deal which means we don’t: “find ourselves back at the negotiating table because things have broken down.”
Another statement of the blindingly obvious.
She says Britain and the EU both want “to work together to grow our economies and keep our people safe.”
But we’re leaving precisely because the majority don’t believe that. She says the Brexit deal “must be consistent with the kind of country we want to be as we leave”. As opposed to the kind of country we don’t want to be?
And she says: “it must strengthen our union of nations and our union of people.”
I’m no fan of the Scottish Parliament. I wish it didn’t exist but at least I know it does exist. The May Government has ridden roughshod over the devolution settlement. Even Scottish Tory MSPs have stood up against them. They have shown such a disrespect to the Scottish Parliament that now Holyrood has launched its own Brexit Bill.
Do not underestimate the seriousness of that development. It will undoubtedly end up in the Supreme Court but, if the court agrees that Holyrood has the right to hold on to devolved powers over things like fishing and agriculture, the U.K’s internal single market will be shattered. And that’s how she “strengthens the Union.”
Living in Scotland, I’ve had some experience of referenda. Love him or loathe him, Alex Salmond at least came up with a blue print for his vision of independence. There were pages of documents people could refer to, pore over, pick apart and laugh at. And for its part the U.K. Government produced a dozen separate papers explaining why it would be impossible to unravel the Union.
But, in quarter of a century of campaigning for Brexit, Nigel Farage never found the time to jot down even a few outlines on the back of a packet of Dunhills. I don’t believe that Nigel Farage, when he set out on this mission 23 years ago, envisaged how complicated it would become. Maybe when he started it was a lot simpler. Maybe he should have kept up with the times.
Why did Boris Johnson do no work on the possible pitfalls of Brexit? Why did Michael Gove not have something – anything – scribbled on an envelope?
The only place the Leave campaign managed to write anything down was on the side of a bus and that was rubbish. In David Davis we’ve got a Brexit Secretary who genuinely thought we could make trade deals with Germany and France. He didn’t even know we would have to deal with the whole EU.
And, in Liam Fox we have an International Trade Secretary who thought a trade deal with the EU would be “the easiest in human history.”
These are the professionals charged with securing our futures. We trusted them. And now I feel like somebody who has got on a plane, heading for sunnier climes only to discover that the pilot is Norman Wisdom.