Did Theresa May strike a secret deal with the European Union over the weekend? It looks just like she might have done. The Sunday Times reported that the Prime Minister has made a secret Brexit deal with the EU that would keep the whole of the UK inside the Customs Union, which avoids a hard border in Ireland.
On the one hand, this does mean that an Irish backstop – the issue that’s been stalling negotiations for months – wouldn’t be necessary at all. There may be no more discussion about separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, or creating a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland. But on the other hand, it means that the Prime Minister has simply cancelled Brexit.
The plan will no doubt be presented as a great compromise – delivering the results of the Brexit referendum, but ensuring Britain doesn’t suffer the economic consequences that Remain establishment has been threatening for years. It’s also a plan that the Prime Minister might be able to get Remain Labour and Tory MPs on board with.
In the plan, the Times says, there would be an “exit clause” whereby the UK could eventually move towards a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU in the future. Given that the Prime Minister has had this option for a while, however, I wonder whether this is simply a carrot she plans on dangling in front of Tory Brexiteers in an attempt to get their votes when putting the deal through Parliament.
If she can win over Remain MPs by delivering a deal that keeps us in the Customs Union and, in effect, the EU – and she can win over the Brexiteers by promising that there might be the deal they’ve been calling for all along at some point in the future – then the deal can be pushed through and Britain can technically leave the EU in March 2019.
It’s also reported that May will warn Brexiteers that if they don’t accept the deal, then they’ll be to blame for a No Deal scenario. I doubt that will work with the likes of Mogg and Johnson, who would probably rather see that happen.
What I do know, though, is that this is next level deceitful, sneaky, and conniving. It wasn’t all that long ago when I was willing to give Mrs. May a chance to do this right, but it seems like she had no intention of delivering the result of the referendum from the start.
For her to stand in front of the nation and say “Brexit Means Brexit” – looking us in the eyes – and to turn around and fail to deliver Brexit in any meaningful sense means she will certainly go down as one of our worst Prime Ministers ever.
If you can’t trust her to deliver the results of the largest electoral mandate in British history, then what can we trust her to do?