Theresa May’s speech suggests that Brexit will be just as bad as we feared

In a speech to Conservative conference, May hinted at a hard, Tory-dominated, undemocratic Brexit



Theresa May has strongly hinted that she is planning a hard exit from the European Union, and from the single market, and that the Conservative government will demand absolute control of negotiations.

Having announced this morning that the government will trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year, the prime minister— who claims to have supported Remain — used a prelimary speech to the Conservative Party conference to outline her plans for Brexit in greater detail than ever before.

She laid the groundwork for exactly the kind of regressive, Tory-designed Brexit most feared by campaigners on the left.

From the outset, May relied heavily on Leave campaign rhetoric of sovereignty, telling a fawning Conservative Party audience:

“We are going to be a fully-independent, sovereign country, a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.  And that means we are going, once more, to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from how we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration.”

While this doesn’t represent a direct renunciation of the single market, since both freedom of movement and product regulations are conditions of membership, her intention seems quite clear.

She also highlighted that in next year’s Queen’s Speech, the government will soon develop a ‘Great Repeal Bill’, which will remove the European Communities Act from British law. This was cheered by the conference audience, who may not have noticed that the prime minister also said she would reinstate almost all the EU law as British law.

Worryingly, May also reiterated that the process of exiting the EU will be as opaque and undemocratic as the government can manage, with power concentrated almost entirely in Tory hands.

She insists that neither the Commons nor Lords will get a vote on triggering Article 50 and that ‘the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union are the responsibility of the Government and nobody else.’

In other words, the Tories will pursue their own agenda in the Brexit negotiations, actively eschewing further consultation with parliament and the people.

What’s more, because May claims that giving a ‘running commentary’ is not in Britain’s interest, most of the country will not even know what issues being negotiated, or how deals are being reached.

There is now a serious danger that the terms of Brexit will be premised on regressive Tory ideology, rather than the interests of the people. It was the Conservative Party that got us into this mess in the first place, they shouldn’t be trusted to get us out of it.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

8 Responses to “Theresa May’s speech suggests that Brexit will be just as bad as we feared”

  1. Thierry Lajaunie

    Better to have the Britain out, I so much do not understand how the British mind works. A PM who takes the lead of the “Leave” side just after being a leader of the other side. A shame ! Only the British can understand that and still trust in politicians.
    Good luck my friends.
    A frenchman

  2. CR

    Labour risks being on the wrong side of public opinion yet again if they strongly oppose the Great Repeal Bill for Brexit.

  3. Chester Draws

    The Conservatives are, if anything, less “fawning” than Labour are about Corbyn — you are allowing your emotional dislike of them to get in the way of a clear analysis. For example, “Her intentions are clear” is complete BS, as I doubt even she has clear intentions yet in such a complicate thing. It’s just playing into their hands when every one of their moves is met with “the sky is falling in” as an analysis.

    She laid the groundwork for exactly the kind of regressive, Tory-designed Brexit most feared by campaigners on the left.

    Only because the Left are too incompetent to put up a decent opposition. One that doesn’t involve pretending the British actually voted with false conciousness and actually wanted to remain. Until the Left come up with a better plan, actually any plan, for Leave then you’ll be taking theirs. (And one that isn’t the stupid “Norway Option” that is Remain in every important sense — Leave really does mean Leave.)

    Britain voted leave. So to keep going on about it being “undemocratic” to leave, just makes you look like an idiot.

  4. ad

    I voted Remain, and if we have to have Brexit I would prefer a soft Brexit to a hard one. So I am not happy about this. But it would be as democratic as any negotiation conducted by a Labour government – more democratic in some ways, as they will be implementing a referendum result.

    Just because I don’t like something does not mean it is undemocratic.

  5. Imran Khan

    Once again LLF out of touch with its readers even Labour, broadly, supporting ones like myself.

  6. Anon

    Left Foot Forward are like sulking children who can’t get their own way.

    A large part of the public have voted to leave the EU, many Labour and ex-Labour voters amongst that group, and all this site can do is chip away at technicalities.

    Why, for once, don’t the so-called ‘progressive left’ admit that the people’s view of democracy is more important than their self-serving sense of entitlement to power.

  7. Craig Mackay

    The “Great Repeal Act” will transfer all EU -related law into British law. What is then very worrying is that the government can start to dismantle much of the social progress that has been made over the last 40 years simply by issuing executive orders that change the way any piece of the legislation is interpreted. We will simply have replaced legislation from an unelected European executive by legislative changes made by unelected civil servants who happen to be British and no doubt card-carrying neoliberals. All sounds a bit bleak really!

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