Written by Adam Newman |
Prime Minister May came to the Salzburg Summit on the 19-20th September, confident with the knowledge that her plan she had been selling for months, known as the Chequers Proposals, would be accepted by the European Council (European Heads of Government). However, it turned out that the European council had, until now, been paying her lip-service. At the Salzburg Summit, they formally made their position known and rejected her proposal.
In July 2018, Theresa May officially launched the Chequers Proposals as a compromise between the left and the right of the Conservative Party. The proposals suggested retaining aspects of the Single Market and Customs Union to avoid a hard break with the EU which could threaten the DUP alliance and destroy Conservative governmental authority in Parliament.
However, those on the right – the Brexiteers – preferred a Canada-styled option whereby the UK would have a free trade agreement with the European Union which would likely cause a customs border in the Irish Sea – something the Northern Irish DUP do not want. From the European negotiating standpoint, Europe is under the fist of the Teutonic Merkel who has led an iron front throughout Brexit, scared of reducing the integrity of the Continent.
“Europe is under the fist of the Teutonic Merkel who has led an iron front throughout Brexit, scared of reducing the integrity of the Continent.”
The iron wall of Europe and the dire parliamentary circumstances show Salzburg could be the start for a potential negotiating catastrophe. With Chequers now blown out of the European backrooms; how will the prime minister go forward?
May now has two options – break with Europe or break with Brexit. The disastrous snap-election results of 2017 and the grassroots infection of the Tory Party by UKIP has been permanently weakened. May has simply lost the legitimacy she enjoyed in 2016 and early 2017. The constant resignations from Brexiteers and the bold actions of the emboldened Boris and Rees-Mogg are clear demonstrations of this too.
“May now has two options – break with Europe or break with Brexit.”
However, with the skill, finesse and clear competence she enjoyed as Home Secretary, May will have to act swiftly and boldly. The timely Conservative Party Conference at the end of September will be a clear indicator to see if the Tories can get behind her new approach, or, if she will have to bring about significantly greater political alternatives to save her leadership.