Theresa May: A Qualified Defence (2018), by Sean Gabb


Theresa May: A Qualified Defence
Sean Gabb
15th September 2018

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I am presently sat in a Turkish hotel, brooding over the e-mails I keep receiving from my Conservative friends. If some of them want Boris Johnson to replace her, and others Jacob Rees-Mogg, they all agree that Theresa May must go, and that this will somehow improve our departure from the European Union. I have no doubt she would make a better pole dancer than Prime Minister. But I am astonished that anyone with half a brain could want change from our existing state of affairs. It is not, I grant, the best possible state of affairs. It is, even so, the best available.

We must thank our Jewish fellow-citizens for their attack on Jeremy Corbyn. Whether he really is an anti-semite is beside the point – so too whether most of them believe he is. What matters is that, while he remains its leader, the Labour Party is a tainted organisation. This leaves the remainers in British politics with no place from where they can effectively demand a second referendum, or from where they can make other trouble.

It is also beside the point whether the May Government is plotting a departure in name only from the European Union. What matters here is that the Ministers are committed to some departure from the European Union, and that, once we are formally out, we can make further adjustments. It would be nice to leave on good terms. It is essential to leave on whatever terms will get us out. If nothing changes in British politics between now and next March, it is more likely than not that we shall leave. If there is any change, this will, more likely than not, be for the worse.

Let us imagine that there is a vote of no-confidence in Mrs May as Leader of the Conservative Party. Let us imagine what is not certain – that someone more committed to leaving then becomes the Prime Minister. We can suppose that Anna Soubry and Damian Green will resign the Conservative whip – they and perhaps several dozen others of their kind. They are held from doing this at the moment because the ghostly electoral mandate Mrs May has gives them no excuse for splitting. A new Prime Minister without any mandate would give them their excuse. This would leave the Government with no majority. But there is worse.

Between a third and half the Parliamentary Labour Party would like an excuse to peel away and form a new party. So far, they have not found this excuse. A Conservative split would be their excuse. I can imagine a “centrist” block of 150 Members in the House of Commons. Add the Scottish Nationalists and the Liberal Democrats – that would be enough to form a new coalition government. Whether this new government then called a second referendum or found some less honest method, there would be no departure of any kind from the European Union. And, thanks to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, they would keep their seats until 2022. After that, they could look forward to a shower of corporate sinecures.

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Bearing this in mind, I call on the Conservative leavers not to allow a vote of no-confidence in Mrs May. Instead, let them focus on making it impossible for the Government we have to offer new concessions to the European negotiators. I call on the relevant Jewish organisations to keep up their pressure on the Labour leadership – but not to try for any killing blow. They can have Mr Corbyn’s head on a plate after next March. In short, I pray for no change in any direction in British politics until after we have left the European Union. Then, we can have blood on the moon – the more, the better. Until then, let the May Government continue shuffling towards departure on whatever terms they can get or want to get.

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One comment

  • I do not feel, with respect, that you have paid sufficient attention to the legal position. This is that we shall leave the European Union on the 29th March 2019 (what that will look like in practice is a matter for conjecture of course). It will therefore be quite impossible to hold a second referendum in which one of the options is to remain in the EU. By the time such a referendum could be held, given that it cannot even be proposed until we know what kind of deal we are looking at, we shall already be out, so we shall no longer be able to remain in, merely to re-apply under Article 49.

    My conjecture is that after next March, and into the foreseeable future, life will go on as though nothing had happened. The British government is making provisions to implement EU Directives as normal, even those that will not come into effect until after our departure date. My guess, and I am prepared to wager quite a bit of money on this, is that the only difference is that EU Regulations will in future be implemented by Statutory Instrument rather than by Brussels fiat. EU Directives will continue to be implemented by S.I., as they are now. No doubt the government will justify this, inasmuchas it gets noticed at all by the general public, as being necessary to be allow us to drive our cars in the EU, or to go on holiday there, or to trade with the EU, etc etc.

    I believe, although it is a long time since I read it, that there is provision in the Lisbon Treaty for the two year moratorium to be extended by unanimous vote. If that happens, all bets are off.

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