The last two Tory prime ministers have been among the worst in UK history – if not the very worst. But they could be models of good practice in comparison with what may repace Theresa May if some of her party members get their way.
Remember when I suggested that the agreements Mrs May brought back from Strasbourg on Monday could represent an attempt to pass the difficult decisions of Brexit on to a successor? It seems I was right.
Professor Simon Wren-Lewis drew the same conclusion in his Mainly Macro blog piece on the future direction of Brexit negotiations.
He wrote: “At some point during the transition period Theresa May could be replaced as Prime Minister. It seems very likely, given the views of Conservative Party members on Brexit, that a Brexiter will be elected in her place. The likely outcome of that, as far as Brexit is concerned, is either that nothing changes, or that the government attempts to persuade the EU to do the impossible.
“For example Theresa May is determined that we should leave the Single Market (SM) because her primary aim is to end Freedom of Movement (FM). Any successor is likely to want to leave the SM because they do not want to be bound by EU regulations on minimum workers rights or the environment.”
He went on to argue that a Brextremist prime minister would most likely want to do a trade deal with the United States, forcing us to accept weakened workers’ rights, weakened environmental regulations, weakened food standards (such as chlorine-washed chicken), a full metamorphosis of the NHS into a US-style healthcare system, and of course, absolutely no say at all in what the US does.
So a future Tory prime minister is likely to force the UK down a road that will (as Prof Wren-Lewis argued, and I accept his conclusion) make us all worse-off by at least £3,000 a year.
And today, moves to secure just such a prime minister have started. George Freeman, a former Tory minister, has said Mrs May should offer to resign after the withdrawal agreement is approved – to help persuade Conservative MPs to back her deal.*
The implication is that she would be replaced by a Brextremist who is more likely to support the views of other Brextremists, making Prof Wren-Lewis’s prediction more likely.
The Guardian stated, in reporting Mr Freeman’s call: “If the UK leaves the EU in the next few months, Brexit will not be over. Arguably it will just be starting, because the talks on the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU are expected to be longer and more acrimonious than the negotiations we have had so far. The UK’s ultimate aim is still, to a large extent, unresolved and there are some Tory Brexiters who want to know that someone more attuned to their way of thinking will be in charge.”
We can see that this may be factually accurate – although it doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Someone more attuned to their way of thinking” is likely to be someone who’ll tie us to the United States in perpetuity. It would be a way of getting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that was abandoned a couple of years ago after a popular protest, by another means – with all the adverse effects on the people of the UK that it entailed.
And we could end up with Michael Gove as prime minister. How do you fancy that?
*One aspect of this that I find disturbing is that Mr Freeman is not as Brextremist as some of his colleagues. He has advocated an EFTA-style Brexit, keeping us in the Single Market without tying us to EU free movement rules. His suggestion seems not to make sense, in the context of his own beliefs.
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