“Theresa May fires the starting gun on Brexit” according to HaveIGotNewsForYou on Twitter.

She can’t, you see.

Brexit – the UK’s departure from the European Union – can only be “triggered” by the European Commission, in its own time.

All Theresa May did was notify the European Union of the UK’s intent to leave.

An agreement must then be reached which 72 per cent of the EU’s remaining 27 states must support, before the UK’s departure can be approved by the European Parliament on a simple majority vote.

And how well does the British public think Theresa May’s government will perform in negotiating such an agreement? Here’s your answer:

This scepticism was abundantly clear in the way the House of Commons greeted the statement on Article 50 that Mrs May croaked her way through yesterday – a statement that was so cliched, uninspiring and false that her fellow MPs didn’t even wait for her to finish making it before they started subjecting her to mockery and ridicule:

“This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back,” she said – lying.

“We will make our own decisions and our own laws, take control of the things that matter most to us…” We always did; we always had.

“… and take the opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain— a country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home. That is our ambition and our opportunity, and it is what this Government are determined to do.” Lies and drivel. Conservative policy has always been to increase unfairness. When she refers to “our children and grandchildren”, she means the offspring of rich Tories – not future generations of the British people at large. A Tory’s ambition is to help him- or herself, and that is the opportunity Mrs May is taking.

“At moments such as these—great turning points in our national story—the choices that we make define the character of our nation. We can choose to say that the task ahead is too great. We can choose to turn our face to the past and believe that it cannot be done. Or we can look forward with optimism and hope, and believe in the enduring power of the British spirit. I choose to believe in Britain and that our best days lie ahead. I do so because I am confident that we have the vision and the plan to use this moment to build a better Britain.” None of this meant anything at all.

“Leaving the European Union presents us with a unique opportunity. It is this generation’s chance to shape a brighter future for our country—a chance to step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be. My answer is clear: I want the United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before. I want us to be a secure, prosperous, tolerant country, a magnet for international talent and a home to the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead. I want us to be a truly global Britain: the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe, too – a country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.” Still no sign of any content.

“That is why I have set out a clear and ambitious plan for the negotiations ahead. It is a plan for a new deep and special partnership between Britain and the European Union—a partnership of values; a partnership of interests; a partnership based on co-operation in areas such as security and economic affairs; and a partnership that works in the best interests of the United Kingdom, the European Union and the wider world. Perhaps now, more than ever, the world needs the liberal, democratic values of Europe…” At this point she was interrupted by an eruption of laughter across the Chamber.

“That is why, although we are leaving the institutions of the European Union, we are not leaving Europe. We will remain a close friend and ally. We will be a committed partner. We will play our part to ensure that Europe is able to project its values and defend itself from security threats, and we will do all that we can to help the European Union to prosper and succeed.

“In the letter that has been delivered to President Tusk today, copies of which I have placed in the Library of the House, I have been clear that the deep and special partnership that we seek is in the best interests of the United Kingdom and of the European Union, too. I have been clear that we will work constructively in a spirit of sincere co-operation to bring this partnership into being, and I have been clear that we should seek to agree the terms of this future partnership, alongside those of our withdrawal, within the next two years.

“I am ambitious for Britain, and the objectives I have set out for these negotiations remain. We will deliver certainty wherever possible so that business, the public sector and everybody else has as much clarity as we can provide as we move through the process. That is why tomorrow we will publish a White Paper confirming our plans to convert the acquis into British law so that everyone will know where they stand, and it is why I have been clear that the Government will put the final deal agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.

“We will take control of our own laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and those laws will be interpreted not by judges in Luxembourg, but in courts across this country.

“We will strengthen the Union of the four nations that comprise our United Kingdom.”

“We will negotiate as one United Kingdom, taking account of the specific interests of every nation and region of the UK. When it comes to the powers that we will take back from Europe, we will consult fully on which powers should reside in Westminster and which should be passed on to the devolved Administrations. But no decisions currently taken by the devolved Administrations will be removed from them. It is the expectation of the Government that the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will see a significant increase in their decision-making power as a result of this process.

“We want to maintain the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland. There should be no return to the borders of the past. We will control immigration so that we continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain, but manage the process properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest. We will seek to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can. This is set out very clearly in the letter as an early priority for the talks ahead.”

“We will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained. Indeed, under my leadership, the Government will not only protect the rights of workers but build on them.”

“We will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union that allows for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states, that gives British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets, and that lets European businesses do the same in Britain. European leaders have said many times that we cannot cherry-pick and remain members of the single market without accepting the four freedoms that are indivisible. We respect that position and, as accepting those freedoms is incompatible with the democratically expressed will of the British people, we will no longer be members of the single market.” This is a breach of a Conservative Party manifesto pledge, of course.

“We are going to make sure that we can strike trade agreements with countries from outside the European Union, too, because important though our trade with the EU is and will remain, it is clear that the UK needs to increase significantly its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world.” And will the UK’s workers have to suffer reduced rights, and the UK’s consumers buy lower-quality goods, as a result of this?

“We hope to continue to collaborate with our European partners in the areas of science, education, research and technology so that the UK is one of the best places for science and innovation. We seek continued co-operation with our European partners in important areas such as crime, terrorism and foreign affairs. And it is our aim to deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit, reaching an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year article 50 process has concluded, and then moving into a phased process of implementation in which Britain, the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us.” At least she has finally accepted that a phased approach is necessary and the change cannot happen all at once.

“We understand that there will be consequences for the UK of leaving the EU. We know that we will lose influence over the rules that affect the European economy. We know that UK companies that trade with the EU will have to align with rules agreed by institutions of which we are no longer a part, just as we do in other overseas markets—we accept that. However, we approach these talks constructively, respectfully and in a spirit of sincere co-operation, for it is in the interests of both the United Kingdom and the European Union that we should use this process to deliver our objectives in a fair and orderly manner. It is in the interests of both the United Kingdom and the European Union that there should be as little disruption as possible. And it is in the interests of both the United Kingdom and the European Union that Europe should remain strong, prosperous and capable of projecting its values in the world.” Here, she was backtracking furiously from previous, confrontational, comments.

There was more, but it is pointless to continue; the point is made.

Under Mrs May, the UK is backing out of Europe – meaning nobody has any idea where we are going now.

Least of all our hapless, hopeless prime minister.

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