Posted on July 5, 2017
The UK election is now four weeks behind us and Prime Minister Theresa May has now formed a Government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who will provide support on a ’supply and confidence’ basis.
Life has changed dramatically, both for the Government and for the country. It is difficult to pick out any positives from the political mess that the UK now finds itself in, but the softening of the rhetoric and the negotiating position of the UK government is a marked change.
May is now less beholden to the Brexiters in her party. Remainers in her Cabinet outnumber their Brexit colleagues. While the Brexiter MPs could rebel and bring down the government, they know that would almost certainly lead to a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn, with the Tory party having torn themselves apart. Cameron thought his legacy was another 20 years of Tory government. If they can make 20 months, they will have done well.
What we are now seeing is a softening both in the government and in the country. Business, and the City in particular, has space for its voice on a pragmatic exit from the EU. Polls also indicate that if there was another referendum, the remain vote would win. But knowing now what we should have known then is a mistake history has often left us.
Another indicator of how toxic Brexit is within the Tory party is that no one is putting their heads above the parapet to replace May. The UK has had a less than spectacular start in the negotiations, having acquiesced on the process of the talks. Even Boris Johnson, who sees anything through the prism of how this helps him become the next PM, has been quiet. While what is more likely is that a ‘clear Remainer’ of the likes of Phillip Hammond would lead the party into the next election, one has to ask: Who would want to have their hand on the tiller during what will certainly be one of the most difficult post-war negotiations for the UK? And without a clear vision or strategy?
Bearing in mind the tick tock of the negotiation clock, the UK has to agree to the exit bill, as well as the status of EU nationals in the UK before talking about a future relationship. Equally pressing is the Northern Ireland/Ireland border issue which has become messier with a failure to agree to a devolved Belfast Government. May’s impartiality to having a Belfast Government up and running is being tested with her recent support of the DUP.
Most commentators are clear that a ‘hard Brexit’ is off the table as well as the attitude that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. Talk is now much less aggressive, much more conciliatory. The government recognizes that walking away from the EU is going to be more complicated than expected. The economy is now starting to hurt with the UK likely to go into recession. The mood in the country is changing and, equally as important, there is no clear strategy or vision for the UK outside the EU, or how it will reconnect with its European neighbours and their largest market once the UK has left.
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