PMQs: Theresa May ‘Trumps’ her way through Brexit plan questions

Dodges reveal a dangerous contempt for the public


One of the most frustrating elements of the US elections was the failure of the American media to ask Donald Trump a straight question and press him for an answer.

Trump’s tactic of baldly stating goals without details of the means – ‘build a wall’, ‘bring back jobs’, ‘beat ISIS’ – worked for him, not just on polling day, but in giving wiggle-room to U-turn on campaign pledges.

The lesson wasn’t lost on Theresa May, who appears to be hoping to ‘Trump’ her way through all questions on her plan for Brexit. 

Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions was a case in point.

Despite a series of questions from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who made use of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s remarks to a Czech newspaper that Britain would ‘probably’ leave the EU customs union, the Prime Minister declined to answer or provide any information.

She replied:

“On the whole question of the customs unions, of the trading relationships with the EU and other parts of the world […] we are preparing carefully for the formal negotiations. What we want to ensure is we have the best possible trading deal with the EU once we have left.”

When Corbyn referenced a leaked cabinet memo warning the government has no Brexit plan, May replied:

“I have to say […] yes we do have a plan. Our plan is to deliver the best possible deal with trading with the EU.

Our plan is to control movement of people from Europe into the UK, our plan is to negotiate free trade agreements with rest of world.

We are united in our determination to deliver on the will of the British people…”

That was it, besides some Cameron-esque attacks on the opposition.

This is becoming a bit of a trend. When the memo leaked yesterday, the government rejected the findings, and that repeated the mantra:

“We are focused on getting on with the job of delivering Brexit and making a success of it.”

This statement, much like May’s today, contains no information whatsoever. It’s just a serious of words meant to give an impression of activity, competence and uplift.

Ironically, the net effect is merely depressing, and reveals the chaos and stagnation of a government in over its head.

David Davis Liam Fox PMQs Nov 16

The contempt it shows for the public – in whose name Brexiters claim to act – was summed up eloquently by the grinning face of Brexit Secretary David Davis, as the Prime Minister dodged her way past these questions.

A good measure of the health of a political culture is how much of these Trumpish tactics it is willing to tolerate – and the resources it can muster to defeat them.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

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