I made sure to watch the recorded version of the speech in its entirety, with a glimmer of hope having read the British Pound gained strength after the speech which based on the track record of a PM Theresa May’s Speeches or Statements on this topic is, well a “Record” result. I personally went through 3 mental transitions as I was watching;
- (positive) The first part sounded pretty good and was addressed mainly to the British people seemed unifying and reassuring in terms of her leadership and authenticity in purpose.
- (confusion) The second part addressed to the EU started at a positive note but then turned south pretty quickly both in terms of tone as well as make false/nonsensical case of why exiting helps us be more Internationalists, and allow us better opportunities for agreeing bilateral trade deals with countries beyond Europe.
- (negative) By the end of the speech the realisation kicked-in that the sum of what has been announced is not really news, merely better structured/presented narrative.
My brief comments on the limited key points mentioned in the speech are as follows;
Our Special Diversity & Multiculturalism; The PM starts by giving a message of profound respect & support for the EU and that it is in our best interests that we see it succeed but then she makes the case why we decided to leave; if you make an effort to break down her arguments for leaving, not one is a valid argument and most have not even been put as arguments leave by the BREXIT camp during in the lead to the Referendum like UK being more Internationalist or is more Multicultural than our friends across the channel (really after attacks on minorities post referendum results?). Diversity & Multiculturalism is not unique to the UK nor has continued membership in the EU prevented us from negotiating better bilateral trade deals with the countries beyond the European border including with our Common Wealth partner. These definitely make for good/positive sound bites but do not make any credible argument in of themselves of why we should leave the EU.
Unity among the Brits & Democratic Scrutiny: Giving the perception that there is no divide in Britain towards BREXIT or at least the fast track process to triggering article 50 the government continues to pursue is disingenuous to say the least. In terms of putting BREXIT deal for a vote in both houses of parliament the question that has to be asked is what exactly would the benefit if such vote cannot stop the UK from leaving the EU-is this Democracy British style? So smoke screens all around.
Playing Hardball: Why is it a good idea for the EU to be more flexible in the negotiation regarding access to the single market; well because we hold powerful cards in terms of security capabilities/financial services industry which is difficult to replicate. So in essence what we are saying to our European friends is this; thanks so much for giving us the flexibility to include exit clauses for the UK in applying many EU regulations in the past, and by the way as we continue to be so special considering the tools at our disposal above so we need you to follow the same negotiating pattern giving us maximum flexibility in defining this new relationship. Beyond the fact that the EU does need to develop its own military capabilities considering Britain’s exit as well as Trump’s recent comments about US commitment to NATO, playing hardball and requesting special treatment yet again in the same breath is a bit rich (sorry, “is bloody rich”).
The Real Tragedy: The tragedy is not really the government’s approach in pursuing the exit from the EU, but rather the level of weak leadership among Liberal parties in the UK who do not seem to have a consistent/clear vision moving forward. After PM’s speech Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron tweeted (and he does seem to be doing most of his reactionary politics on Twitter) that the path PM Theresa May is pursuing will result in a hard BREXIT and be harmful to the UK economy. This has been his message all along but at the same time we no longer see calls for 2nd referendum or call for parliament vote that would allow/prevent exit-the original position. It seems Liberal parties have been tamed to live with BREXIT process pursued by the government but given some “playing ground” to focus on whether it would be a hard/soft process instead. Ignoring BREXIT all together-and I mentioned this in previous posts-weak leadership among main Liberal parties throughout Europe is a key factor why Liberal values/traditions are receiving this level of kickback in recent years a trend likely to continue if there is no revitalising change at the top of the hill.