What Theresa May’s six Brexit ‘lessons’ teach us

The prime minister makes token concessions but holds firm on her main red lines

Theresa May
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Theresa May has laid out six “lessons” from a week of talks aimed at saving her Brexit deal that apart from a few token concessions further entrench her existing red lines on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

In a nod to EU nationals currently living in the UK, May announced she would waive the planned £65 “settled status” application fee, but once again rejected the option of a second referendum and an article 50 extension.

“Among six elements of her revised Brexit strategy laid out by the prime minister, including the fee waiver, was to argue that the only way to stop a no-deal departure would be to either vote through a deal or revoke article 50,” reports The Guardian.

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The prime minister stuck to the line she has been toeing for months – that her deal is the only option in town – yet her continued refusal to present a viable Plan B despite her historic Commons’ defeat last week has drawn ridicule and anger from political commentators and politicians from on both sides of the Commons chamber.

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May’s intransigence prompted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has faced criticism over the past week for refusing to meet with May until she takes the threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table, to liken the Brexit process to “Groundhog Day”.

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But amid all the rhetoric, both the London Evening Standard’s Nicholas Cecil and The Sun’s Steve Hawkes wondered if they had detected a subtle change in the May’s language in relation to the UK’s formal departure date on the 29 March.

While on the subject of joining a permanent customs union with the EU, the BBC’s Norman Smith tweeted whether she may have “left a chink open on that – despite earlier ruling it out”.

“Theresa May just isn't the kind of politician who was ever going to tear up her Plan A overnight, however irritating it might be to some of her own ministers,” writes the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

“She still thinks it is better at this stage for her to pursue a strategy that might just about conceivably see, in the end after a lot more wrangling, a version of her deal squeak through the House of Commons with support from her own MPs and having kissed and made up with the DUP,” says Kuenssberg.

Yet her refusal to take no deal off the table and tack towards a hard Brexit in the hope of winning the support of Brexiteers and DUP is a risky strategy.

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The Times reports that Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has warned Number 10 that it could face dozens of ministerial resignations next week if Tory MPs are banned from voting for a plan that helps stop a no-deal Brexit.

The Tory leadership hopeful has told the prime minister’s office that that it should offer a free vote on the issue as a way of forcing all Tory MPs to show their view on Brexit issues, rather than just waiting while the prime minister attempts to delay key decisions for another round of Brexit negotiations and winding down the clock.

A series of amendments aimed at taking a no-deal Brexit off the table, extending article 50 and even handing control of the process to parliamentarians could ulitimately box May into a corner, making a soft Brexit more likely and her position within the Tory party untenable.

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