Britons Await The Promise Of Brexit
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s loss of another Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, invites a paraphrase of Oscar Wilde, “to lose one Brexit minister, Prime Minister, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.”
Carelessness does not even begin to encompass Mrs. May’s ineptness since the June 2016 referendum vote in favor of exiting the European Union and striking out once more as a sovereign country in command of its laws, borders, public purse, and trade policies.
Mr. Raab’s reasons for his departure — he could not ‘in good conscience” support Mrs. May’s draft withdrawal agreement from the European Union — echo the Brexiteer consensus: Dissatisfaction with the proposed resolution of the so-called “Irish backstop.”
Government attempts to address the Irish question, allowing Brussels to maintain the integrity of its single market and customs union, have resulted in proposals that leave parts of the UK — that is, northern Ireland — under EU jurisdiction.
Adding insult to injury, the draft framework forbids the UK from unilaterally curtailing the backstop, while giving significant authority to the EU and the Irish government. In his resignation letter, Mr. Raab said the draft “presents a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.”
Mr. Rabb said he could not support “an indefinite backstop arrangement, where the EU holds a veto over our ability to exit.” That echoes in spirit Boris Johnson’s complaint that it would reduce Great Britain to a “vassal state.”
Stephen Barclay was appointed Brexit secretary in Mr. Rabb’s place, but not before rumors that Brexiteer heavyweight Michael Gove had refused the poisoned chalice. Mr. Barclay had been an unknown junior minister, whose rapid elevation sets him as a “who-who” minister.
With another cabinet minister and several junior ministers joining Mr. Raab out of government, Mrs. May’s bad day only worsened when Brexiteer extraordinaire Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared outside Westminster to announce he had submitted his letter to the 1922 Committee, which oversees party management, calling for Mrs. May to resign. Forty-eight letters would automatically trigger a vote of confidence.
Are the Prime Minister’s days numbered? Perhaps not.
As many Conservative members quietly support Theresa May as not, especially given the leadership options. Brexiteers may revile her flaccid negotiating strategy, but Remainers will support any deal that safeguards Britain’s “special relationship” with the EU.
Moreover, if an attempted defenestration of Mrs. May comes to naught, Conservative party rules set down that a year must pass before renewed efforts can begin. If the rogue Tories fail, they may cement her premiership for the next twelve months.
It looks more and more as if these negotiations were, from the start, doomed by electing a Remainer to take Britain through the Brexit process — even though Mrs. May enjoyed overwhelming support, through a paucity of strong opponents, when David Cameron stepped down and Boris Johnson was publicly abandoned by Mr. Gove.
At the time it looked as if a Remain supporter, like Mrs. May, would encourage like-minded MPs to follow her example, much like “only Nixon can go to China.” It now looks as if a strong Leaver was needed to take over from Mr. Cameron.
Whither Brexit now? The draft withdrawal agreement is a dead letter, with every significant bloc in the House of Commons against it. Brussels has indicated no further concessions will be forthcoming. Even though the “no deal” option is opposed by a majority — even by those who say “no deal is better than a bad deal,” on the assumption that a good deal is still a possibility — it may become reality by default.
Hence the renewed calls for a second referendum, the product of specious reasoning and ulterior motives by Remainers who fabricate excuses to return to the ballot box until Britons vote as their betters expect of them. As one EU mandarin confessed, the ultimate aim is “no Brexit.”
This week all eyes will be focussed on whether the 1922 Committee has reached the threshold to contest Theresa May’s premiership. If she fails to rally half her parliamentary party behind her leadership, challengers will scramble for the top of what Disraeli’s called the “greasy pole” of power.
Count Messrs. Johnson, Gove, Raab, and even, perhaps, Rees-Mogg, among them. If confidence in Mrs. May is lost, two prime ministers will have fallen before the Brexit mandate. The point will be made that the price of residency at Downing Street is nothing less than fidelity to the democratic decision to reclaim British independence.