Theresa May has one last chance to write her epitaph

by Kevin Meagher

Theresa May is single-handedly ensuring that the next generation of this country’s brightest and best will never venture near politics as a calling.

What a miserable advertisement she is for reaching the top of the greasy poll.

Her premiership is a pitiful, joyless existence devoid of purpose or conviction.

Yet again, she is the acme of political failure and confusion, assailed on all sides and unable to make a single decisive act.

This week’s unforced error is the Irish border issue.

Granted, it’s only Monday and there is plenty scope to top yesterday’s shambles, where she went to Brussels fully intending to agree a bespoke deal that would effectively keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and single market.

Before she bottled it, allowing Arlene Foster to veto a move that was manifestly in the interests of the British people, in order to keep the DUP leader sweet.

Before she drifts back to Brussels for further talks at the end of the week, Theresa May should take stock.

She has two choices.

Either she can placate the DUP, which means achieving no agreement on the Irish border question, preventing Phase Two talks on trade from beginning and increasing the prospect of a hard Brexit.

Or she can put the country first.

She can stand up to the DUP, agree a deal with the Irish Government, proceed to Phase Two, agree a trade deal and secure a soft Brexit.

Let’s recap. Her spin doctors have spent every day since last Thursday briefing that this deal was in the offing.

Northern Ireland’s economic regulations would stay in ‘alignment’ with the Republic of Ireland, protecting it from the incalculable damage Brexit will cause.

But Theresa May possesses neither the political courage nor sense of history required in a British Prime Minister.

As a result, her indecision has managed to alienate both the DUP and the Irish Government in one fell swoop. In Europe she is a laughing stock. At home, a figure of contempt.

In her Lancaster House speech back in January, she promised that ‘[n]obody wants to return to the borders of the past, so we will make it a priority to deliver a practical solution as soon as we can.’

A hard border on the island of Ireland is bad for trade and free movement, a boon to smugglers and an easy target for dissident republicans.

Perhaps the craziest aspect of where we now find ourselves is that the Government agrees with this assessment.

Ministers have said all along that they don’t want a hard border, but only seemed to realise at the eleventh hour that if you want the status quo – effectively no border – then you can’t very well have two different customs systems.

They thought they could busk it; underestimating the Irish Government’s resolve and the small fact it has the other EU Member States in its corner and a European Commission that is itching to make life difficult for Theresa May.

Now, she is held hostage by Foster and the cuddly Duppers, while the Irish dig-in for a scrap.

It comes after her entire Social Mobility Commission upped and walked out on her at the weekend, exasperated by her failure to make any serious commitment to reduce social inequalities.

For those of us that came of political age watching John Major flounder from one disaster to another, Theresa May is rewriting the rule book. We thought a prime minister could not be more forlorn than the grey man.

We were wrong.

By not seizing the initiative yesterday, she only makes a deal on the Irish border harder to achieve later in the week.

The unionists will hate her for it, but she must stand up to them.

Either she will go down as the Prime Minister who played a lousy hand as well as she could and at least secured a trade deal with the EU.

Or she will be remembered for presiding over the collapse of Brexit negotiations, leaving us to the mercy of a hard Brexit.

Theresa May has one last chance to write her epitaph.

Kevin Meagher is the associate editor of Uncut and author of ‘A United Ireland: Why Unification is inevitable and how it will come about’

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10 Responses to “Theresa May has one last chance to write her epitaph”

  1. john P Reid says:


    just because Labour’s vote went up she lost a overall majority, wit the fixed term parliament act she can stay as long as she wants, her speech on a good society was at odds with the cuts on public spending that are making projects to dal with poverty and crime impossible, but had we not had brexit we’d have A libdem Tory coalition again, something we could have in the future with Vince Cable as their leader

    see if labour don’t win hundreds of extra council seats in London next year due to the Tory collapse then it won’t be a great loss to the Tories

  2. Tafia says:

    Theresa May is single-handedly ensuring that the next generation of this country’s brightest and best will never venture near politics as a calling

    ROFL – Like the dullards that we have now are particularly bright. Even ex-MP Davis Miliband – nicknamed ‘brains’ isn’t that bright.

    Incidentally, what you are favouring Meagher – some sort of special status for Northern Ireland – is opposed by a substantial chunk of the PLP, the Lib Dems, the SNP, etc etc etc etc.

    Hard Brexit is back on the agenda. Good. If May had any bollocks she would go public on her ‘red lines’ and tell the EU to back down by Friday tea time or she will break the talks off totally until they back down 100% over everything.

  3. Anne says:

    If this wasn’t so serious this would be farcical. Why on earth was not all the options of an Irish boarder not discussed with all political parties involved before going to the EU. It is obvious the DUP would not agree to the terms suggested. Now Scotland, Wales and London want to be treated differently to England. Chaos is the correct description to use because Teresa May has not communicated efficiently with all parties involved- she has been tearing around the world trying to secure trade deals with countries such as India who have said they will not agree to trade deal unless we agree to more immigration from their country – now wasn’t immigration one of the reasons why people voted to leave the EU. All the while our economy is deteriorating. Someone with some sense has got to say STOP – this just has not been thought through – Brexit is causing real harm to the UK in every single way.

  4. Anne says:

    Kier Starmer said yesterday that no 10s lack of thought about the secondary questions behind the Irish border issue was “staggering.” It is is not only staggering but her lack of understanding regarding the Irish boarder and the history surrounding it is breathtaking, especially for someone in her position.

  5. John Wall says:

    What really matters is the end of the process. If a decent trade deal, etc is secured then this will be remembered, if at all, as a hiccup. If the whole process goes pear shaped then it’ll be another entry in the catalogue of catastrophes.

  6. Peter Kenny says:

    Hi Taffia – just a flying visit to say that as of this morning a ‘hard Brexit’ is firmly off the agenda – hard being WTO rules.

    We’re going to be shadowing the customs union at least. That’s right – we’ve agreed that ‘no deal’ will be shadowing the EU’s regulatory frameworks! ECJ will be given ‘due regard’ etc.

    All of which follows from the Election.

    I told you so.

    I even told you it would be Ireland that would do it.

    I can’t tell you the results of tomorrow’s lottery though.

  7. Tafia says:

    Peter Kenny.

    Phase 1 has only been agreed by virtue of moving the unagreeable points to Phase 2. Phase 2 is always going to be more difficult than Phase 1 – and we’ve just made it more difficult.

    Should there be agreement in Phase 2 (which can’t start until March and must be complete by October), it will then have to be approved by the UK Parliament, the European Parliament (by a majority of MEPs who between them represent more than 60% of the population of the EU27) and unanimous vote in the Council of Ministers.

    Remember, Article 50 is triggered. we leave on 29 March 2019. Those votes do not affect us leaving – all they affect is whether we leave with the deal on offer or slide out with no deal. Do you believe the deal will pass all those votes?

    Now to your statement “We’re going to be shadowing the customs union at least. That’s right – we’ve agreed that ‘no deal’ will be shadowing the EU’s regulatory frameworks! ECJ will be given ‘due regard’ etc.” You are of course aware that after a series of joint clarifications from the UK-EU all day yesterday because of contradictions between various paragraphs, that it was confirmed during yesterday afternoon that Paragraph 5 takes primacy over all other paragraphs (such as Paragraph 49 for example).

    And that ultimately, if May is deposed before then, then her replacement will be one of Rees-Mogg, Gove or Johnson.

    I am more confident than ever we will be leaving with no deal.

  8. John Wall says:

    @various – I’m starting to wonder if the various Eurocrats have started to see the light and realised that true negotiations have to involve give and take – not just take. I also wonder if it’s finally dawned on them that Britain IS going and that no-deal would also be bad news for the 27 countries still ensnared.

    When you realise that the Irish border issue hasn’t been completely solved – there are still things to be sorted out in Phase 2 which, of course, is where they really belong as a decent, comprehensive free trade deal would make any talk of a “hard” border irrelevant – it could be, technically, argued, that Phase 1 was slightly fudged.

    It should also be noted that there were positive things said about May in Brussels – not what we’d heard previously.

    Some commentators reckon that the EU did make some concessions – again not really what had been seen before.

    With the internet, etc everybody in Brussels knows what’s being said in the UK and they know that since the General Election May’s position has been weakened although, to coin a phrase, rumours of her demise have, so far, been exaggerated. When someone is weak there’s an opportunity to exploit this but there is always the risk that May could go and, perhaps, it’s better the devil you know.

    I believe that no-deal would be bad news for everyone and it has been argued that as we have a deficit with the EU27 we’d “win” if tariffs were imposed.

    May was a remainer, although not sufficiently hard line to prevent her becoming PM. Regime change could be accompanied by a General Election – which would press the pause button for maybe six weeks – and might result in Corbychev in No. 10. He’s always been anti EU, was criticised by Labour remainers for going AWOL during the referendum campaign and is currently more interested in domestic policy as he knows that Brexit is difficult as there is a big mismatch between the views of his MPs and their constituents.

    Put all of that together with the tight timescales and perhaps reality and reasonableness is dawning is Brussels.

    Alternatively, I could be completely misreading the runes!

  9. Peter Kenny says:

    You keep it up, Taffia, mate!

    You’ll be telling us it’s no deal to the end, no doubt, like the guy falling off the Empire State – he’s heard talking to himself as he hurtles past the 22nd floor: ‘so far, so good!’

    Like your non existent Tory landslide, eh?

  10. Tafia says:

    Peter, Well if thats what you think then you better start working to keep May in power – cos if she’s toppled we will leave with hard brexit.

    And as for the landslide, remember May got one of the highest votes both by weight and percentage, that the tories have ever had. Nobody – not even Labour themselves thought the smaller parties would collapse the way they did and Labour would end up getting above 40%. (still lost though, and an awful long way behind the tories in the end despite it being one of their best showings)

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