Is Prime Minister May dancing into the dark?

Nov 01, 2018
After a questionable entrance to the Conservatives’ Party conference, Theresa May still couldn’t tie up a Brexit deal.

WORDS BY CRÓNA CLOHISEY ACA

In possibly the most important speech of her political career, Prime Minister Theresa May danced onto the stage of the Conservative Party’s conference to an ABBA favourite in early October, declared “austerity is over” after eight years of tax increases and spending cuts, and vowed to scrap the cap on council borrowing to fix the housing market.  

As expected, and after the dancing, Brexit underpinned many aspects of the speech, with Ms May warning that a split in the party risked derailing the UK’s departure from the EU. Ms May reiterated that a no-deal Brexit would be a bad outcome for both sides and that the introduction of tariffs and checks at the borders would be “hard”. While she delighted in repeating her mantra that the UK will not accept a border in the Irish Sea, she offered no solution on how to overcome the issue of a hard border on the island of Ireland. 

Despite ongoing speculation about her future as Prime Minister, and with only a matter of days left to reach a Brexit deal, the UK leader appeared to be sticking to her guns about her Brexit plans. Emphasising that many livelihoods depend on a strong Brexit and that, in her opinion, the UK has everything it needs to succeed, she said, “if we stick together and hold our nerve, I know we can get a deal that delivers for Britain.”

This was never more evident than when the UK leader subsequently refused to sign off on a draft agreement reached by her own negotiating team because it would mean the UK would have to stay within the EU Customs Union indefinitely. While reports are sketchy in terms of the detail of the draft agreement, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted that despite “intense” last minute efforts, agreement was not reached on the backstop to avoid a hard border, the main sticking point being the EU’s backstop plan and the UK’s requirement for a definite end-date. 

A no-deal Brexit is “more likely than ever before,” European Council President Donald Tusk warned in a letter to EU leaders after the backstop plan caused talks to devolve. 

This latest development means that there’s likely to be a summit this month to progress the talks, one way or another.