Careless talk costs lives. With her advisers having belatedly realised that saying Brexit means Brexit was providing the country with far too much information about what Brexit actually means, Theresa May devoted much of prime minister’s questions and her subsequent statement on the G20 summit in China to damage limitation. She has already had to slap down David Davis for making up policy on the hoof in the Commons and her other two liabilities, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, have yet to open their mouths.
It used to be the case that most people stopped listening to PMQs once the two leaders had finished going head to head. On Wednesday, it was the moment when many chose to tune in. With Brexit uppermost in everyone’s minds and the government front benches struggling even to maintain the Brexit means Brexit line, Jeremy Corbyn asked the prime minister about the housing crisis. It was almost as if he was making a point of ignoring Owen Smith’s email instructing him to lead with Britain’s relationship with Europe.
May couldn’t believe her luck and clumsily shoe-horned the gags she had prepared for harder questions into her non-answers. Her escape was only temporary, though, as she was forced on to the back foot by the SNP’s Angus Robertson, who wanted to know whether Britain would remain part of the single market. She glanced at her notes. REMEMBER NOT TO SAY BREXIT MEANS BREXIT. Written in capitals.
Brexit means… she began, before pausing. What did it mean if it didn’t mean Brexit? No. She couldn’t allow herself to think that way. She must try to stifle her natural tendency towards honesty and transparency. She started again. It would not be right to give a running commentary on our Brexit. I know this is exactly the opposite of what the minister for Brexit promised you all on Monday, but that only goes to show how much progress we have made with our Brexit negotiations over the course of two days.
The relationship with Europe that we will be getting is a very special one that I can’t tell you about right now because I haven’t got a clue what it will look like. But I can promise you that it won’t be a Norwegian relationship because we are not Norwegians.
It will be a very special British relationship, which will be ours and ours alone and, once I have spent the next two years failing to get what I want, I will tell you what I have reluctantly settled for. Trust me on this, though. You’re wanting it. You’re loving it. You’re getting it.
If May appeared somewhat taken aback when she eventually realised that many MPs were openly laughing at her, she looked abject when Tory backbencher Bernard Jenkin leapt to her rescue. I feel more confident now about the future of the UK than at any other time in my life, he announced. Jenkin is one of those politicians with the unerring knack of being wrong about almost everything. So when he’s feeling good, it’s time for the rest of us to panic.
There was no let-up when the prime minister moved on to her G20 statement. It would not be right for me to give a running commentary on our Brexit negotiations, she said, more than happy to repeat herself. While it wasn’t right to give a running commentary on her Brexit negotiations, it was perfectly in order to give a running commentary on why she wouldn’t be giving a running commentary. And not giving a running commentary was the process I took into the G20.
But let me say this. I am delighted to say that Mexico and Singapore are very quite keen to do a trade deal with us at some unspecified time in the future and that when the Australians say they are going to put the UK at the back of the queue behind the EU, what they really mean is we are at the top of their thoughts and prayers. And by the way, I did whisper something about steel dumping when I was in the toilet so nobody can say I wasn’t tough with the Chinese.
Most MPs had hoped May might have had a little more to show for her jaunt to China and several tried to tease out a few more details about what Brexit deals were in the offing. I understand that you don’t want to give away any sensitive information, said Conservative Anna Soubry. But could you at least tell us some of the principles that will underlie the negotiations?
Labour’s Yvette Cooper tried another tack. Without giving away any sensitive information, could you give us an idea of the values that will inform the negotiations?
No principles. No values. No progress. No clue.
News Source TheGuardianNews