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Theresa May: our public services depend on successful Brexit deal

So walking away from negotiations with “no deal” would be a disaster for them.


Theresa May hopes to reset the Tory election campaign by bringing the conversation back to Brexit. This is after the calamity over the Tories’ “dementia tax” and the significant narrowing of their lead in the polls.

In a speech today in Wolverhampton, May said “if we don’t make a success of Brexit, we won’t have the financial means to fund the public services which we all rely”. She went on to highlight the importance of getting Brexit right for the sake of the NHS, for every school, to ensure a “sustainable welfare system” and for continuing investment in transport infrastructure.

It’s hard to disagree. But how does this square with her threat to walk away from negotiations with “no deal”? It doesn’t. It’s just more doublethink from the prime prime minister. If funding our public services is reliant on getting Brexit right, then walking away with “no deal” would be a disaster for them.

This doublethink was also pointed out by Sky News’ Faisal Islam in his tweet below. May’s argument is that getting a Brexit deal means everything for jobs and services but that she wants votes to give her a mandate for “no deal”.

As the Independent’s economics editor Ben Chu points out, we effectively already have a deal through our EU membership. But walking away with “no deal” means ripping ourselves away “with no anaesthetic“. There’s a reason why it’s been referred to a “cliff edge” because it really is. Rather than this rhetoric being a means to get the “best deal”, Chu points out that it could just be Theresa May working in her own interests within the Conservative party.

The Centre for European Reform (CER) has more on some of the consequences of leaving the EU with “no deal”. It’s not just about tariffs and barriers on goods and services. There are also consequences for flying and for pharmaceuticals. There will still be uncertainty over the legal status of the four million EU citizens in the UK and Brits in the EU. It would also risk instability in Ireland and it’s pretty likely the EU will continue to pursue payment over the commitments made by the UK as a member. These are issues that won’t disappear just because the UK walks away.

Theresa May claims again and again that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. But we don’t actually know what a “bad deal” looks like because she hasn’t identified it, never mind costed it. Neither has her government costed a “no deal” scenario. Her continuing rhetoric simply disguises her government’s lack of a plan. It also serves as a way to keep pushing questions aside on the specifics of Brexit and its impact.

Meanwhile, across the channel, Europe is pressing ahead with their negotiating plans. Yesterday, the EU published two detailed draft position papers: one on citizens’ rights and another on a financial settlement. The EU is progressing with plans to relocate two key EU agencies from London. And remaining EU members have actively been appealing to UK-based businesses who are planning partial relocations as a result of the UK’s departure from the single market. The Independent has a recent report on plans by Legal & General and Aviva to move some operations to Dublin. They are just the latest in a series of financial services already planning to move operations from the UK.

And in his radio show, James O’Brien spoke to a caller who plans to move his business to Spain because they can’t “imagine what a ‘good’ deal is or afford to wait to find out”.

As a negotiating strategy, threatening to walk away with “no deal” seems pretty weak when the EU has been busy focussing on the detail and legalities around Brexit. Instead of threatening to walk away, the next government would better serve the country by providing its own answers to Brexit specifics. Not doing so just makes it all the more likely that a “no deal” scenario is what we get.


Image: © Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com
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