Richard North, 04/05/2017  
 


Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, it just did. Mrs May declared war on Brussels.

After calling on the Queen to dissolve Parliament, the prime minister then addressed the nation from her makeshift lectern in Downing Street to accuse the EU of trying to influence the result of the general election by maliciously leaking the content of her Wednesday dinner discussions.

In what is being called an "aggressive and unusual speech", she tore into some EU leaders and officials, and said Britain would not allow the "bureaucrats of Brussels run over us".

"Britain’s negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press", she said, adding that "the European Commission's negotiating stance has hardened" and threats against Britain had been issued by European politicians and officials. "All of these acts", she claimed, "have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on 8 June".

However, given that UK newspapers had released some snippets on the dinner, and details had been featured on the front page of the Sunday Times, I'm struggling with the idea that this was set up to damage May's electoral prospects.

Within the full text of the speech, though, we see Mrs May reverting to type, with her telling us: "We continue to believe that no deal is better for Britain than a bad deal".

But "we want a deal", she says. "We want a deep and special partnership with the European Union. And we want the EU to succeed". And then the paranoia emerges:
… the events of the last few days have shown that - whatever our wishes, and however reasonable the positions of Europe's other leaders - there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed. Who do not want Britain to prosper. So now more than ever we need to be led by a Prime Minister and a Government that is strong and stable.
But this is not just paranoia – it is quite obviously an over attempt to milk the anti-Brussels sentiment for electoral purposes. Rather than defuse an already tense situation, she is ramping up the rhetoric in a way that can bode no good at all.

The essence of what Mrs May is telling us is that the election is a choice between her and Jeremy Corbyn. With her, we get "strong and stable leadership" and "an approach to Brexit that locks in economic growth, jobs for our children and strong finances for the NHS and the country's schools". With Corbyn, we a hung parliament and a coalition of chaos .

And for this, it appears that she is prepared, effectively, to destroy relations with the rest of the EU and thereby ensure that we end up with the "no deal" scenario.

Meanwhile, away from this strange new galaxy inhabited by Mrs May, most Tories and almost all of the media, we had Michel Barnier addressing the remaining residents of planet Earth, telling us how the EU wants to manage the negotiations. The plans comprise two parts, a recommendation for a decision and an annex, setting out the detail.

But before this message could even be mangled by transmission though inter-galactical space, Mrs May had already delivered her "election winning speech", drowning out any detail. We've now got to the stage where rationality has packed up its bags and left town, making Barnier's message yesterday's news before the day had even had the chance to become yesterday.

Before that had happened, Sky News was contemplating the toxic atmosphere and asking whether the talks were collapsing before they had even begun. Now they barely need to ask, as the atmosphere has gone from toxic to radioactive.

To be blunt, it is difficult to imagine what, if anything, can be recovered from Mrs May's intervention. We are seeing the Independent report that relations with the EU have hit a new low after this "venomous" attack on European politicians.

All of a sudden, the electoral calculus has changed beyond all recognition. While Mrs May claims that only she can bring the Brexit negotiations to a successful conclusion, she has just turned herself into the one person in the world who cannot bring the negotiations to any conclusion. Far from being a choice between her and Corbyn, she has turned the election into a choice of anyone but May.

Possibly, even probably, though, the electorate cannot change tack so fast that it can ditch May and her Tories – and in any case the prospect of Corbyn as prime minister is so uniquely awful that Hell would have to freeze over before many of us could contemplate voting Labour.

That leaves us in a bizarre, if not impossible position. From a former "remainer" and a "steady pair of hands", Mrs May is displaying a degree of recklessness that would put the most extreme of the "Ultras" to shame. Almost single-handedly, she seems intent on wrecking any chance we ever had of achieving a sensible Brexit.

Yet, most likely, in this poisonous, post-referendum aftermath, where attitudes are hardening and intolerance stalks the land, Mrs May most likely feels that this is the best way of capturing the Ukip vote and other Tory deserters, to give her a record-breaking majority.

What she may have to deal with though, is the response of 48 percent of the electorate who voted to remain at the referendum, and the unknown but considerable proportion of leavers who were looking for a rational, ordered exit. For those, a vote for May is not so very far from tantamount to national suicide.

The big question, therefore – for me, at any rate – is whether, when the implications of what May has just done properly sink in, there will be an electoral turn-round of unprecedented proportions, as voters desert Mrs May in their millions.

But there, again, we have the Corbyn factor. Never more has the nation needed an effective opposition – and never has it been less well served. This is not only a crisis of government but a crisis of opposition.

This alone may enough to allow the siren voices of the "no deal" brigade to prevail, backed by the Telegraph which has descended into a new level of madness. They will drive us back into the dark ages with their insane mantras and their populist rhetoric.

Yet, at the margins, we see JP Morgan making plans to "move hundreds of jobs from London". This is a carefully thought-out and considered move. While we are poised to vote with our pencils on 8 June, business is already voting with its feet and what is at present a trickle could become a flood.

The "wrecker" May could well end up presiding over an economic wasteland, the like of which we have not seen since the 1920s, in a self-induced orgy of destruction that has no parallel. Even as it stands, we have never seen the like of it.






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