President Trump really couldn’t have picked a better moment for his first official visit to the United Kingdom.
He likes a fight and when he steps off the plane in South East England tomorrow he’ll walk straight into the biggest brawl since Brexit. Britain is in turmoil. Democracy is at stake. And rather than do the polite, mimsy, diplomatic thing, Trump has already rolled up his sleeves and weighed into the fray by coming out on the side of Team Brexit.
Team Brexit, as I reported yesterday, is currently being led by Boris Johnson – the most senior politician to reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s despicable Bremain sell-out by resigning as her Foreign Secretary.
Trump’s intervention will have given a huge boost for Boris, who at that stage was looking fairly isolated. Sure his cabinet colleague David Davis and a few other Conservatives had resigned too. But most of the Cabinet, including leading Brexiteer Michael Gove, had expressed their loyalty to the prime minister. So it looked as if a Brexit coup might have been averted, with Boris left flapping like a beached basking shark.
Since then though, the forces of Brexit rebellion have swollen. They now include Brexit’s kingmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg who, in alliance with fellow backbench Brexiteers, has lodged four amendments which should kill Theresa May’s proposed EU trade bill stone dead.
The Sun reports:
One amendment demands the UK scraps its pledge to collect taxes and duties on behalf of the EU unless EU member states vow to do likewise.
Mr Rees-Mogg today told The Sun this would effectively kill off Mrs May’s Chequers plan for a “Facilitated Customs Arrangement” as it would be impossible for EU nations to agree.Another – backed by the DUP and Labour’s Kate Hoey – would force the Government to agree in law to a commitment to never having a border down the Irish sea.
A third amendment would force the Government to commit to having separate VAT regime from the EU. A final one would force the Prime Minister to draw up primary legislation if she wants to remain in the EU’s customs union.
Mr Rees-Mogg admitted the move could weaken the PM – who has already seen Boris Johnson and David Davis resign in fury over her “soft” Brexit plan.
But he said: “Unfortunately Chequers was a breakdown in trust. Brexit meant Brexit, but now it appears Brexit means remaining subject to European laws.”
What this means, in short, is that Brexit victory may yet be snatched from the jaws of defeat.
The likelihood now is that – unable to agree on terms that will prove remotely satisfactory to the obstreperous EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, let alone the various member states – Britain will leave the European Union next year with no deal. It sounds bad. But it really isn’t. As Theresa May once said herself “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Effectively, Britain will be trading with the European Union on much the same terms that countries like the United States do, with no special favours, just according to WTO rules.
Trump likes backing winners. And it looks like, yet again, he has picked the right side to champion.
If he has any doubts about this, he should have a read of some the stuff people have been saying about Theresa May and her Brexit sell-out. The outpouring of frustration and contempt, is quite extraordinary. There is simply no way that the ruling Conservative party is going to retain a shred of credibility until a) it has ditched May as leader and b) kept to the promise that Prime Minister David Cameron made to the electorate when they voted in the Referendum that, whatever the result, parliament would honour the people’s decision.
May – a cold fish at the best of times – is sure to give Trump a pretty frosty reception when she meets him on Friday to discuss such contentious issues as Iran and Britain’s stingy contribution to NATO. So here, as a tonic, is the British view on Theresa May:
First, Allison Pearson:
She has to go, she really does. The PM has defied the single biggest vote in our history and let down the 82.4 per cent of the electorate who backed parties that said they were committed to leaving the European Union at the general election. She has been downright evasive and betrayed those who put their faith in her.
Meanwhile, upon hearing of the Great Chequers Sellout, in the Northern heartlands, where one in six Labour Leave voters turned to the Tories, furious members of the proletariat were chucking cans of Newkie Brown at the telly and muttering foul, gynaecological oaths unknown to vicar’s daughters from Eastbourne.
“My husband voted Tory to get Brexit. Now he says he’ll vote Corbyn, even though he’s a c—, just to f— May”, ran one typically thoughtful reaction on social media. How many other disillusioned voters privately share that sentiment?
Mrs May has depressed us long enough. In July 2016, when the UK’s second woman prime minister entered Downing Street for the first time, hopes were high that we had found another Maggie Thatcher. Little did we know she would turn out to be Ted Heath 2.
I already had my doubts. Interviewing Mrs May back in 2012, when she was Home Secretary, I struggled to get her to say a single interesting thing. Believe me, I tried. This wasn’t merely the textbook caution of an ambitious politician, here was that rare and disconcerting thing, a human being who had nothing to say about life, and reacted to questions about everyday experience with polite bafflement.
Next, Quentin Letts:
To say her authority has been dented does not even start to describe the damage she has sustained.
She has been battered like the panels of a jalopy in a stock-car gymkhana. She has behaved in an unprincipled, cowardly, erratic fashion. How can she ever regain her party’s support?
What did you make of Mrs May when she became Prime Minister? My word for her in last year’s election was ‘glumbucket’. Yet she at least seemed to be straight.
It worried me that she had been a Remain supporter, Brexit being such an emotional thing, but she seemed to make the right noises about obeying the will of the people.
Even last Wednesday, when she must have known precisely the terms of the ambush she was so disgracefully about to spring on Messrs Davis and Johnson, she assured Parliament she was going to do what the referendum voters had ordered.
I regret to say, she was either lying, or she has a different understanding of the English language from normal people.
Her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ line was exposed as a con, as meaningless as her dreadful ‘strong and stable’ mantra during last year’s General Election.
So I don’t think President Trump need worry overmuch, if May freezes him out because of his overtures to Boris or his (rumoured) private dinner in Scotland with Nigel Farage (in defiance of requests made by May’s protocol staff that such a snub to the PM should be avoided). It’s not like he’s going to have to meet her on his next state visit because by then she will have disappeared into obscurity.