After one calamitous year, one snap general election and a one billion pound windfall for Northern Ireland in order that the DUP would prop up her minority government, the only certainty that the first anniversary of Theresa May‘s premiership has given us is not that Brexit might be a disaster but that it will be.
Despite her (now laughable) insistence that she offered the UK ‘strong and stable’ leadership, she and her government have been exposed as weak and wobbly, and, particularly in the case of Brexit, woefully underprepared for the scale, complexity and consequences that leaving would involve.
May has continued to insist on her plans to take Britain out of the single market and customs union, assuring doubters we don’t have to worry about the effects of this decision because we will be able negotiate a trade deal before Brexit, despite being repeatedly told by the likes of Michel Barnier, Guy Verhofstadt, and even MPs in her own party, that this isn’t possible.
Moreover, May has been constantly reassuring the British public that we don’t need to worry about issues surrounding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even though if the UK leaves the customs union there is no doubt that it will become a hard border between the UK and the EU. By announcing this, May has crucially misunderstood the delicate political situation on the island of Ireland, which will only be exacerbated by her dependence on the DUP in Westminster, and the current suspension of the Stormont assembly.
In the explanatory notes of the bill to trigger article 50, May’s government thoughtlessly announced its intention to quit the EU’s nuclear agreement, Euratom, which allows free movement of nuclear energy materials throughout all EU countries. This decision has been almost universally derided; it means that Britain’s access to radioactive isotopes needed to treat cancer patients, and the supplies it needs to support its nuclear plants, are now under threat. It is still incredibly concerning that May thought it was okay to announce such an important policy in a side note to a bill.
On the anniversary of the referendum vote, May and her team demonstrated that, even after a year, they still have a painfully poor understanding of the the complex issue of citizens‘ rights, and appeared oblivious to the ongoing and unnecessary instability that this is causing for millions of EU citizens living in the UK and Brits in other EU countries. Her plan has been severely criticised by both the EU and within the UK for the degree to which it reduces the rights of EU citizens, and would, if adopted as reciprocal, reduce the rights of British citizens abroad.
Throughout the year, May has failed to provide substance to her arguments. She has given no solid reasoning behind any of her decisions, initially repeating empty mantras such as ‘Brexit means Brexit’ to try and justify her choices. Furthermore, she has failed to articulate a vision or indeed any detailed plans of how she sees either a future relationship with the EU. Nor has the government produced detailed plans as to how they plan to keep Britain global when it loses access to all the benefits of the EU. How, even, it plans to support domestic sectors in Britain so supported by our membership, such as agriculture.
The citizens of the UK deserve more from their Prime Minister. They deserve to know why their future is no longer looking like the one promised by Brexiteers, even if this means (as it does) admitting these were lies. Increasingly, the public mood is looking like it would like to be given the opportunity to change its mind, and its Prime Minister.
This article was first published by on the website of Richard Corbett MEP, Deputy Leader of the EPLP and vice chair of the European Movement UK. Click here for more blogs about the EU or in depth Brexit Briefings.