With May Leaving, The Hard Part Of Brexit Begins
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.
Can Brexiteers take any comfort in what is to date their sole consolation prize? In lieu of reveling in two months of freedom from the European Union, champions of British independence have to settle, for now, with news of the Prime Minister’s pending departure.
Mrs. May’s announcement Friday came in all too true fashion, postponing her widely sought resignation from the Conservative leadership until June 7. She will remain premier until a successor is chosen, no later than the end of July.
Nothing so embodies Mrs. May’s premiership as her leaving of it — grudging, acrimonious, and interminable. Not to mention vainglorious, pompous, and disingenuous. Nevertheless, Britons can take satisfaction that she will soon be gone.
Just don’t uncork the champagne. Brexiteers have yet to secure Brexit. They’ve simply cashiered one known antagonist for many unknown aspirants to power, each awaiting his chance to climb what Disraeli dubbed the “greasy pole.”
This is, however, an opportunity for the Conservative party to begin redeeming itself. With Nigel Farage’s Brexit party polling at 37% and Tories languishing at 7%, Britain’s natural party of government has much for which to atone.
Beginning June 10, with the race to succeed Mrs. May. Only MPs, with the support of colleagues, are eligible to take part. Once nominations close, a series of votes will commence, the lowest name dropping off the ballot each time until but two names remain.
They will then solicit party members for their vote. The whole process may drag on until late July, depending on the number of candidates who enter the leadership race (already expected to rival the number of Democrat contestants for America’s presidency).
The Guido Fawkes political site is compiling a spreadsheet of possible candidates. While the race has yet to begin officially, your Diarist has three suggestions for Tories as they size up their leadership candidates.
First, a blanket amnesty is in order for Leavers who, in moments of weakness, voted for Mrs. May’s Withdrawal Agreement for fear of something worse. While there are many, if all too few, Tory MPs who kept the faith, it is doubtful these members have sufficient clout to assume the leadership. Come to terms, too, with Nigel Farage and his nascent party. Let Conservatives not close ranks against him, lest they jeopardize “the full Brexit.”
Second, it is best to eschew unrepentant Remainers and Cabinet ministers as leadership material. For to be a member of Government has meant supporting not only Mrs. May’s flawed negotiation strategy with the EU, but her contumely toward the Brexit cause. It is also wise to steer clear of those candidates who, while promising to pursue a deal with Brussels, aver that, if need be, they will accept “no deal.” To be clear, the need for a no deal Brexit exists — and has from the start. Credulity in respect of the EU suggests that leading the Conservative party exceeds a candidate’s ken. Let us go for WTO Brexit and be done with it.
Third, avoid the notion that securing Britain’s exit from the EU is to be the culmination of Brexit. It is merely preliminary to fulfilling the dream of independence — not only from Europe, but also from the Nanny State, French dirigisme, and socialistic ills. Brexit is not the end but only the beginning of “taking back control.”
Disraeli was a radical in seeking to “remove all that was bad” in the British constitution. A reinvigorated Conservative party would involve not only embracing the Brexit but translating it into limited government, sound money, and prudent fiscal policies. Incentivizing individuals toward entrepreneurship, stewardship, and responsibility have been the animating reason for Brexit from the start.
Were Conservatives simply to realize Brexit — assuredly no mean feat — and carry on as before, it would do mischief to Margaret Thatcher’s justly famous Bruges speech. Let us echo her sentiments by saying: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state from Brussels, only to see them re-imposed at Westminster.”
Far better for Tories to remember Mrs. Thatcher’s reply to those who wanted her to reverse her political and economic reforms — “the lady’s not for turning” — and let the spirit of Brexit transform Britain from a declining sclerotic state into a dynamic civil society.