Prime Minister Theresa May has devised a cunning plan for Tory Conference which starts at Birmingham this weekend. She will make her contribution on Brexit tomorrow, rather than waiting for the traditional leader’s slot on Wednesday.
She will make a speech, along with two of the so-called Three Brexiteers: Boris Johnson and David Davis.
Thereafter, Mrs May hopes to concentrate on the other themes she hopes will define her premiership, such as social mobility and grammar schools.
Demand: Brexit supporters outside Parliament in early September
I have bad news for Mrs May. Her cunning plan to banish all discussion of the EU as the week goes on is certainly doomed to fail.
The only subject that counts for a damn at Birmingham next week is Brexit.
When will Britain invoke Article 50? When will we quit the EU altogether? What is the role of Parliament? On what terms will we quit?
For the three months following the referendum in June, our politicians have in effect been fighting a phoney war. All important decisions have been delayed by the summer holidays and the Tory leadership convulsions.
As from tomorrow, all that changes and the Brexit debate starts in earnest. Mrs May should be in no doubt that Britain’s departure from the EU is the issue — and the only issue — which will determine the success of her premiership.
In Birmingham, Mrs May needs to set out her vision of how Brexit will wor
theresa May will be remembered as a truly distinguished prime minister if she can navigate Britain’s way out of the European Union successfully. If she fails to do so, then she will be remembered — at best — as barely a footnote in history. Nothing else counts; certainly not whether Mrs May succeeds in setting up a handful of grammar schools in deprived inner-city areas.
So far, the prime minister has given away nothing of her thinking and whenever one of the Three Brexiteers has made any comments on the subject, she has slapped him down.
To begin with, this silence looked like wisdom, but soon it will start to look like weakness — and if it goes on much longer it will look like the prime minister risks losing control of events.
In Birmingham, Mrs May needs to set out her vision of how Brexit will work.
The first question is timing: when will we invoke Article 50 and formally trigger the process of leaving the EU?
Downing Street told Boris Johnson to put a sock in it when he predicted that this would happen at the start of next year. In truth, any later date would be unfeasible, as the process of unravelling our membership takes up to two years, meaning the issue would not be resolved in time for the next general election, which is scheduled for 2020. More important than timing, however, are the terms by which Britain will leave the EU. The Remain camp (including George Osborne and Kenneth Clarke) are pushing for what they call ‘soft Brexit’, a phrase which sounds altogether reasonable and unthreatening. It envisages Britain remaining in the European single market, still subject to the European Court of Justice and, crucially, to the free movement of people.
They contrast this outcome with what they have chosen to call ‘hard Brexit’, which would see Britain remove herself from the single market. Thereafter, we could either negotiate our own trade deals, or operate instead under the standard (and none too punitive) tariffs of the World Trade Organisation.
The problem with so-called soft Brexit is that we would remain under European Union jurisdiction, and would not be able to control our borders any more than we can at present as a fully signed-up member of the EU.
Now that is emphatically not the solution the British people voted for on June 23. In practice, it is membership of the European Union by another name. We would be forced to endure all of the burdens of EU rules and regulations, but without any say in how they were set.
I prefer another term to define our future relationship with Europe; ‘clean Brexit’, which sounds far less extreme than ‘hard Brexit’, even if the result is basically the same.
It means we would continue to have good relations and to trade with Europe, but as an independent nation. That is a possible outcome if Mrs May provides the leadership to make it happen.
The longer she delays, the more she strengthens the hand of the soft Brexiteers, particularly those in control of business and industry, who will use the continuing uncertainty as an excuse to delay investment and therefore damage our job market and national output.
This will weaken her at home and abroad; perhaps fatally. Mrs May must act now.
The British political class is finding it very hard to come to terms with the referendum result. On his trip to Turkey last week, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson vowed to help Turkey join the European Union.
As one of the most important spokesmen for the Leave Campaign, surely it was obvious to Mr Johnson that Turkey’s relations with the European Union are no longer anything to do with Britain. But apparently not.
Likewise, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon took it upon himself to declare that he would block plans for a common European Army. Once again, the European Union is at liberty to do whatever it wants, and Britain has no say in the matter at all. Surely this point is obvious even to an individual of Mr Fallon’s limited intellectual ability.
On his trip to Turkey last week, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (pictured with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu) vowed to help Turkey join the European Union
Dave MUST turn up to conference
I very much hope that advance reports are wrong, and that David Cameron will attend the Conservative Party Conference this week.
Failure to show up would, after all, break with all precedent and tradition.
Maggie Thatcher bravely attended the first conference after her defenestration. She received a tumultuous reception and, despite her recent humiliation, signalled she would do everything she could to help her successor John Major win an election the following year.
I very much hope that advance reports are wrong, and that David Cameron will attend the Conservative Party Conference this week
Thirteen years ago, Iain Duncan Smith was brutally evicted in favour of Michael Howard.
I have no doubt that Mr Duncan Smith would have much preferred to stay at home in the wake of this gross public humiliation. Nevertheless, the former Army officer attended conference to demonstrate his support for the man who had taken his job.
Unlike IDS and Maggie, David Cameron was not evicted as leader. He left of his own accord.
Therefore, he surely needs to travel to Birmingham next week to thank Conservative Party activists for the support they gave him as leader for nearly 11 years and to throw his weight behind Theresa May.
It is not about personal preference. It is about putting public duty first; the mantra which has guided every leader of the Tory Party until very recent times.
David Cameron has already behaved badly by stepping down as an MP within weeks of leaving the highest office. That is how his hero Tony Blair behaved.
It is no surprise that Mr Blair has boycotted Labour conferences since stepping down as prime minister. Mr Cameron should not follow suit.
Is Sir Cover-Up getting his comeuppance at last?
For the past ten years, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, aka Sir Cover-up, has been the most powerful figure in the British government
For the past ten years, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, aka Sir Cover-up, has been the most powerful figure in the British government. No more.
The accession of Theresa May as Prime Minister has seen a significant contraction in his powers.
One ally of the PM says: ‘Mrs May takes the view that he should perform the job of Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service. She believes that he should give up the role of personal Prime Minister’s flunkey.
‘She has no need of the emotional crutch that David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown all relied on.’
Sir Jeremy is being excluded from meetings where he previously would naturally have had access.
Sources say that he feels anxious and excluded, which is as it should be.