If she wasn’t such a despicable human, you could almost feel sorry for Theresa May. Since becoming Prime Minister she has volunteered herself as a hostage to fortune, no longer in control of anything relating to Brexit, the defining issue of Britain’s next decade, and by extension the only thing upon which her legacy will be judged. The real tragedy is that like all good cowards, she is taking us all down with her.
For every way that May is weak, it is a reflection of a Britain that has decided to throw away its international standing and economic security for what can most generously be described as a massive fucking gamble. Isolated from Europe and forced to legitimise psychopaths and tyrants in exchange for scraps, Britain has lost control of its economic destiny. So welcome to your new Britain, a land with no moral high ground, no dignity, just a sprawling cesspit of UKIPer’s fantasies.
It’s true that May, at least superficially, looks in a position of strength. She has bumper approval ratings, no opposition to speak of, a party that is more or less behaving itself, and has strong support from the right wing press. The British economy is growing, and there have been few adverse effects from Brexit so far. But all of this belies the underlying fragility of her position, Captain of a ship with no rudder and no lifeboats, heading full steam ahead into the icebergs. May can look strong on Brexit for now, because it hasn’t happened yet. As soon as Article 50 is triggered, the door slams shut on her and the process is dictated by the EU27.
We’ve written before about Britain hammering the accelerator into the hardest possible Brexit, eyes wide shut. The brief summary is as follows.
May has promised the best possible deal for Britain, knowing full well that a better trade deal with the EU than we currently enjoy is an actual impossibility. The political realities of the remaining EU27 are that they will happily take an economic hit if it means Britain is punished for its decision to leave, as a warning to any other countries flirting with departure. This imperative supersedes – by quite a distance – the Italians who want to buy our fish and chips and British people who like prosecco and BMWs. If this is what ‘them needing us more than we need them’ looks like to you, I strongly advise you to avoid any kind of pay negotiations at your current place of employment.
The Prime Minister in charge of guiding Britain through one of its most complex negotiations has done absolutely no expectations management with the public. She has not readied the population for the compromises that lie ahead. Whether it’s the £50bn divorce settlement, the fact that the EU27 will dictate the sequencing of events (exit, transition and only then, a trade deal), the impossibly tight time-scales, the lack of any serious expertise on the British side of the negotiation, or the epic game of chicken to which she is entering into on accepting the final deal, the public have not been fully informed of the consequences of May’s inflexibly hardline approach to Brexit.
May brags about Britain’s strong hand, but her ‘bargaining chips’ are in fact just a range of morally unconscionable acts. Give us the deal we want or we’ll deport EU nationals, refuse to cooperate on security intelligence, Victiorianise our labour market and slash corporation taxes and regulations to attract business, torch the public services and welfare safety nets which define us as a liberal social democracy. Each of these would involve a betrayal of the British values May professes to love so much.
On the European side of Brexit, expect May’s “plan” to start unravelling quickly, with little hope of her ever salvaging it. As the great thinker Mike Tyson once theorised, “everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face”. As businesses leave Britain and the EU calls all the shots, May will be forced to choose between an honest discussion with the public about her previous bluster, or serious consideration of the morally unconscionable. Based on the track record of our Prime Minister – lest we forget the ‘send them home’ vans that even UKIP thought were beyond the pale – I would guess it will be the latter.
So on to the other side of Brexit, our relations with the rest of the world. The Brexit referendum was won with the help of the slogan ‘Take Back Control’. It conjured visions of a buccaneering Britain, ruler of the waves and lord of foreign lands, striking bountiful trade deals around the four corners of the globe. It took just one tawdry little visit to meet Donald Trump to explode this particular UKIP fallacy.
The unseemly haste with which May flew to America tells you everything you need to know about the weakness of Britain’s position. May knows that Brexit is going to come at considerable economic cost. There will be, at very least, some short term pain due to the lag between exiting the EU and signing up new trade deals, but the damage may well be permanent. Her political calculus is that a trade deal with the US gives her Hard Brexit the perfect optic – a free trade deal with the world’s largest economy and justification for turning our back on our largest trading partner. In normal times, this would be a decent strategy. The problem is we are not in normal times.
It cannot have escaped May’s notice that the new guy in the White House is an absolutely awful human. We are all too familiar with the Trump charge sheet. We don’t need to go over it again. We know that the man is extremely unwell mentally, is volatile, narcissistic and psychopathic. Clearly Mrs May was not to be put off, as she zoomed into Philadelphia to gain commitments from Trump on Britain’s place at the front of the queue for a trade deal. The event itself passed without much incident, and they even held hands, which was kind of sweet, in the way that two serial killers getting married in a high security prison is kind of sweet.
The problem May has created for herself is that as the first leader to visit him, she has become his chief legitimiser and best friend. She described his agenda as a “renewal of America”, and spoke warmly of his “stunning election victory”. To gain a commitment on a trade deal, she has sold the nation’s soul to someone who might actually be worse than the devil. His agenda has been clear from the start. May cannot play dumb. As soon as he was inaugurated, he began his assault on American institutions and values. His mental instability is on constant public display via his twitter account. He will not be a friend to Britain, or reliable ally. All we have to offer him is a boost to his fragile ego and personal enrichment.
I’m not suggesting May should never engage with Trump, but wouldn’t you wait just a little bit before pinning all your hopes on him? Wouldn’t you want to give it a month or two, just to make sure he doesn’t go all fascist and leave you in an impossible bind? Clearly not, thought Theresa May.
We didn’t need to wait long for the evidence of Trump’s mockery of May and her visit. Shortly after May left for the next leg of her world tour of global scumbags, Trump enacted an executive order to ban muslims from seven countries entering the US, and a temporary ban on refugees. It quickly emerged British nationals could be caught up in the ban. Britain reacted with outrage, but when asked to condemn it, May at first refused. After being publicly shamed she could find only the meekest of objections – “I don’t agree with it”. That powerful rebuke from a serious statesperson. I don’t agree with it. Like I don’t agree with you impaling small children on huge spikes, but sure, if you want to do it, knock yourself out.
She now owns a little bit of every ounce of hate that Trump sells. She cannot afford to publicly denounce him for she knows it will cost her place at the front of the trade queue. So as Trump becomes more and more demented, as the Bannon-led coup continues to undermine America’s political institutions, as the country slips ever closer to totalitarianism, May will have to sit back and stay silent. She has already traded in our right to moral objection. When Trump inevitably says that he thinks NATO is obsolete – his long held view – any sense that May has influence or sway over Trump will ring as hollow as her barren soul.
When asked whether the State visit May offered to Trump would be halted until the muslim ban ended, a spokesperson from May’s office replied that it couldn’t, because to do so would “undo everything”. Everything, undone. Two words that sum up the decrepit desperation of Brexit Britain. Our “everything” is a trade deal with a man who looks ever so slightly like a total fascist. A man who actively wants to destablise the world by undermining supranational institutions so he can bully individual nations into disadvantageous bilateral trade deals. A man who thinks a deal is only good if the other guy loses. That is now our everything. Britain in 2017. The dictator’s friend, the fascist’s cheerleader. May has burned our bridges to Europe and sees no choice but to jettison our values in pursuit of anything that can disguise the disaster of Brexit, no matter how much control and dignity is surrendered.
On the evidence of this weekend, our future involves turning a blind eye to the vile and inhumane actions of the world’s most appalling leaders so that we can sell them things, like weapons and health services. Britain has declared to the world it is first in the queue for any morally dubious trade deal going. Are you a tin-pot dictator who likes to behead gay people? If so Britain would love to speak to you about some innovative new jams.
This is what your sovereignty looks like, Brexiters. It’s cosying up to fascists, human rights abusers, psychopaths and tyrants to do grubby little deals. It’s being bent over by big businesses threatening to relocate to Europe, as Toyota did in order to receive the still-not-public promises from government that they will not be adversely affected by Brexit.
May has left herself no choice. She is now all in on a trade deal with a country that will exploit our desperation for everything it can get. Brexit, quite simply, means Trump and a whole shit tonne of steroid-injected beef.
The final pillar of May’s support is the rabidly anti-immigration, pro-Brexit, right wing press, who will not turn on her until she’s completely without hope. May is easily the most servile and supplicant Prime Minister they have ever had to deal with. She is doing everything Dacre and Murdoch want, without any fight at all, and in exchange they will defend her doing the indefensible. So expect their response to public anger about Trump’s muslim ban to be to double down and lie harder. As the wheels fall off Brexit, as companies up sticks and relocate to Europe, as the divorce settlement torpedos the public finances, and as the loss of influence as a world power dawns, they will pump out more and more hatred as they defend her until the very last. Accusations of treachery will be made against those speaking objective facts about Brexit, and important institutions will be undermined.
May knows this support comes at a price. She knows that the minute she stops dancing to their tune, she will be turned over to the wolves. So don’t expect any kind of mea culpa from May over the disaster she is about the create. To do so would end her own career, and as we have seen from May, that would involve a level of political courage she simply doesn’t possess. She’s sailing us into the iceberg and we’re all going down with her.
Theresa May has made her bed and now we all have to lie in it, even though it’s quite evidently saturated in the piss of high-grade Russian prostitutes. There’s little pride or dignity involved in a piss-soaked mattress. Believe me, i’ve been there. But that is now Britain’s future. May can argue that the bed is not covered in piss until she’s blue in the face, but at some point the public is going to notice. We are all now hostages to fortune, praying that by that by the time everyone wakes up it isn’t too late.