J.J. Patrick: When Theresa May's Brexit means walk, not talk

As the UK prepares to formally begin the process of leaving the EU this week, author J.J. Patrick wonders whether Theresa May has any intention of entering serious negotiation

AS the Brexit department calls for hundreds more staff to deal with the "unbelievably technical" aspects of leaving the EU, and Theresa May confirms to Donald Tusk that she will be triggering Article 50 next week, the United Kingdom is falling to pieces. 

On top of that, the burden of re-legislating is likely to cripple the effectiveness of parliament on domestic issues for years. The truth of the now rapidly approaching Brexit negotiations is clearer than ever: Westminster is underprepared, overwhelmed, and appears to be resorting to the only plan which guarantees political survival in the face of national harikari: walking away from negotiations and blaming the EU.

Recently I received information from a source close to Downing Street who informed me that Theresa May plans to walk out of Brexit negotiations after the conclusion of the German elections this autumn. 

Recently I received information from a source close to Downing Street who informed me that Theresa May plans to walk out of Brexit negotiations after the conclusion of the German elections this autumn. 

Not only that, but she plans to leave with no deal as the final deal and blame the EU for a collapse in talks. This is national suicide, yes. But it makes sense.

My source could turn out to be wrong, but the prospect is an important one and worth raising given everything's that's on the line.

The only benchmark May has ever set for Brexit is that it means Brexit. Out. There is no other bar by which she can be measured, and this is why David Davis admitting all the things we stand to lose has such a limited impact on her personally. 

So she’s set out an easy stall from the beginning – a single indicator by which she can claim success, no matter what other calamity arises. She can’t be held accountable for trade (or lack of it), or any other disaster, but she can stand honestly by the fact she took the country out. She Brexited. And better still: it was the will of the people, so whether it was a bad idea becomes further irrelevant. She was just following orders...

This move also makes sense from another point of view. We are entering the most complex negotiations this country has ever faced with no real idea of what deal we want, how the world outside of EU trade works – it’s almost beyond parliamentary memory now, and without the actual staff needed to deal with the complexities of doing the deal in the time limit. 

My source could turn out to be wrong, but the prospect is an important one and worth raising given everything's that's on the line.

At best, without walking out, we’d time out at two years and EU treaties would cease to apply anyway. But that would be our fault. May’s fault. So walking out keeps ownership and allows spin. It also means the EU can be blamed because of how the process works. 

At the stage a deal is reached, the 27 member states would need to ratify it. If the deal is, in fact, no deal on our part, then all they have to do is agree we are out that way, which is precisely how May could claim the EU was in some way at fault without being entirely dishonest.

Britain, ironically, has no chips to play. That’s the truth of Brexit, and this is the only win the government can hope for.

Picture courtesy of European Council

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