Theresa May warned Brexit would make us less safe and prosperous. What happened?

A reminder as the PM triggers Article 50 of what she said last year


So this is it. In just a few hours’ time Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the European Union, will deliver by hand to Donald Tusk the letter that triggers the process of the UK leaving the EU.

The letter will be handed in the full knowledge that with elections in France next month and then in Germany in September, the next few months will be wasted as we wait to see who will be leading both the powerhouse nations in the EU with the clock ticking on Brexit all the time.

As the letter is delivered, the Prime Minister will get to her feet in the House of Commons, pledging to bring the country together and calling for us all to unite. Such words however will leave a bitter taste.

For months we have been told by the Prime Minister and her band of Brexiteers that the country wants a hard Brexit, a clean break from the single market and the customs union. Not so.

Forty-eight per cent of the country voted to remain in the EU, and so far very little has been offered to them. The Prime Minister must be aware that calling for unity does not lead to it happening.

She needs to give a reason for the 48 per cent to support what she is doing. To argue that 52 per cent of those who voted to leave the EU reflects the will of the country as a whole is absurd.

Throughout the whole process, the Prime Minister, faced with little proper opposition from the Labour Party, has found herself placating those in her party who simply want rid of all things EU, whatever the consequences might be.

And let us remember what the consequences might be, as espoused by the Prime Minister herself.

In April 2016, in one of her few interventions in the EU referendum, she delivered a speech which made clear that leaving the EU would make us less safe.

While noting that intelligence co-operation would continue with our EU countries, she went on to explain that outside the EU

“…we would have no access to the European Arrest Warrant, which has allowed us to extradite more than 5,000 people from Britain to Europe in the last five years, and bring 675 suspected or convicted wanted individuals to Britain to face justice.

It has been used to get terror suspects out of the country and bring terrorists back here to face justice.”

In the same speech, she warned that Brexit might be ‘fatal to the union with Scotland’.

‘I do not want the people of Scotland to think’, she said ‘that English Eurosceptic put their dislike of Brussels ahead of our bond with Edinburgh and Glasgow’.

It’s almost as though May could foresee the future with crystal clear clarity given the irony that she is now leading a government which is doing just want she feared it might – putting Scotland’s place in the UK at risk.

And does anyone remember what she said about sovereignty? ‘No country or empire in world history’ she declared ‘has ever been totally sovereign, completely in control of its destiny’.

Then there was the recording of the PM speaking to Goldman Sachs before the referendum, leaked to The Guardian, in which she declared:

“I think the economic arguments are clear. I think being part of a 500-million trading bloc is significant for us.

I think, as I was saying to you a little earlier, that one of the issues is that a lot of people will invest here in the UK because it is the UK in Europe.”

‘If we were not in Europe’, she warned, ‘I think there would be firms and companies who would be looking to say, do they need to develop a mainland Europe presence rather than a UK presence? So I think there are definite benefits for us in economic terms’.

In a further speech last year ahead of the EU vote May praised David Cameron for having negotiated a guaranteed principle of ‘non-discrimination against businesses from countries outside the Eurozone’.

May went on to warn that if we were not in the European Union ‘no such deal could have been agreed’.“

‘There would be little we could do to stop discriminatory policies being introduced, and London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre would be in danger’, she said.

Oh, and just to ensure you sleep easy in your beds tonight, just reflect on the words of Liam Fox, now the International Trade Secretary, in an article drafted for the Financial Times in 2012 after he resigned as Defence Secretary. Writing ahead of the Budget he said:

“To restore Britain’s competitiveness we must begin by deregulating the labour market. Political objections must be overridden.

It is too difficult to hire and fire and too expensive to take on new employees.

It is intellectually unsustainable to believe that workplace rights should remain untouchable while output and employment are clearly cyclical.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.