Shelagh Fogarty is Leading Britain's Conversation.
17 January 2017, 11:02
Today’s speech is Theresa May’s Christopher Columbus moment.
Of Columbus, it was said, that when he set out, he didn’t know where he was going; when he got there, he didn’t know where he was; and when he got back, he didn’t know where he had been.
A bit like Brexit isn’t it?
Is Theresa May any more certain than Columbus allegedly was of the direction of travel, where she wants to end up, and how she gets there? That has been in doubt, but now, maybe, on today’s evidence, she is at last steering the ship of state towards the right place.
Going for a clean break is the only way of throwing down a gauntlet to the Europeans. This isn’t a time to mess around; it’s a moment for a clear statement of principle. She’s quite right to reject half in/half out temporising. That would just play Brussels game.
What she has done today is told the EU that Brussels bluster won’t deflect her from her course. A course set by the British people in a referendum result born of frustration at the EU's behaviour across a number of fronts.
Today, she has told Brussels that they had better get real about the consequences for them of Brexit.
A statement greatly helped by Donald Trump backing Brexit, telling the Germans he doesn’t care about EU unity, and promising an early trade deal with the UK. Whatever they say about him, these assertions will have rocked the Eurocrats back on their heels.
Similarly Trump’s threats against German car imports can only help. Think about it. The Germans own more than half the UK’s car factories. BMW alone sold 250,000 cars here last year. All that is put at risk if there’s the kind of crazy tariff war threatened by Jean Claude Juncker and his pals.
Now, on top of that, Trump is threatening to curb the import of the small German family cars, made in Mexico, where the Germans have invested heavily, and which are designed to undercut American manufacturers in their own back yard. If Trump stops that, it’s a double whammy that could disable the German car industry for years, especially given the controversy over VW’s fake emissions data.
The UK’s best bet is for EU leaders to realise that losing the UK is a bigger blow to them (given their €60 billion trade surplus with Britain) than it is to us.
And then to start getting sensible. In other words, that’s the moment they might start to make us an offer we won’t want to refuse.
In the meanwhile, May also needs to wise up about a few things.
Early on, she tried to take on the Chinese over the nuclear power plant deal negotiated by Cameron and Osborne. Apparently her key advisor, Nick Timothy, doesn’t much like the Chinese. Wise up, Mrs M, and slap him down. If we really are as determined as you say to make a go of it in the big wide world, alienating the Chinese isn’t the best way to start.
Then there’s immigration. May was Home Secretary for six years and immigration soared, while she lied through her teeth repeatedly about immigration being under control.
Now she says immigration will be controlled by Brexit.
But, the truth is that of the almost 700,000 who immigrated to the UK last year, more than half came from outside the EU. While a lot of them were good for Britain’s economy, there was also tens of thousands of unskilled young men from the Indian subcontinent and Africa, who have little or nothing to contribute to our country, but are still getting in in droves. Why’s that, Theresa, and why will Brexit stop it?
Mystic Mellor sadly predicts, that whether we Brexit or not, we are heading for a bitter disappointment on immigration, because most of the immigration the British people most object to isn’t from the EU anyway.
The clear and obvious danger is, that we do leave, and mass immigration continues. That would surely be the biggest betrayal of the British people by their government in all recorded history.
To end on a more positive note, no one will huff and puff more about today’s speech than Nicola Sturgeon. Let her.
Get her, with all those empty threats about another independence referendum. With Scottish oil income running on empty, who are you trying to kid, Nicola?
I say, bring it on.
It’s time the poor woman realised she’s not threating us with a big claymore, merely a soggy haggis.