Tuesday, 25 October 2016

What is Theresa May doing?

What is Theresa May doing?

She backed the UK remaining in the EU, but took on the role of prime minister after the country voted to leave and - if "Brexit means Brexit" can be taken to mean anything at all - appears to be prepared to lead the country into an action she thinks is folly.

So what's going on?

I can think of several possibilities:

1. She never thought remaining was the right option for the UK, but thought the remain campaign would win and that it was therefore the most politically smart position in that it would ally her with David Cameron, who would have stayed on as PM. Now she's going for a hard Brexit because Brexit is what she's always wanted.

2. She's a barely competent opportunist who is prepared to do almost anything - including commit the country to folly - in order to further her own career. In becoming PM she learnt that she benefited from not having campaigned vigorously for remaining, and now she's playing her cards even closer to her chest over what she wants from the UK's negotiations with the EU because a) she can't do any better and b) she can claim whatever outcome results as being the one she wanted.

3. She always wanted the UK to remain in the EU, but didn't campaign hard so that if the leave vote won she could try to steer the UK towards the best outcome. Now she's playing hard a) to keep the leave campaign off her back and b) to convince the EU that she'll really go through with a hard Brexit and that all of Europe will suffer from the UK's loss unless the EU caves on its principle that the free movement of goods, capital and services must necessarily go hand-in-hand with the free movement of people, which - let's face it - is a political conviction rather than an economic one.

Where I come up short is in picking the possibility I think is most likely. The evidence to date means any of them could well be. May was an ineffectual Home Secretary who has nevertheless managed to craft an image of steely competence. She's presided over a horrifying series of policy suggestions that have kept the right wing silent while making the left more convinced than ever that Brexit is a terrible idea. And she's picked the worst possible timing for triggering Article 50.

So your guess is as good as mine.

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