Saturday

21st Jan 2017

May struggles to contain Brexit angst

  • "There's not a bit of what I'm doing just now that's bluffing or game-playing", Sturgeon said after the London meeting (Photo: 10 Downing Street/flickr)

New committee meetings and parliament debates have failed to appease critics of the British government's “chaotic” Brexit preparations.

Prime minister Theresa May, in London on Monday (24 October), promised the heads of the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to adopt a “work programme” in November for a new subcommittee on EU negotiations to enable them to “shape” the talks.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • "If the government were to set out every jot and tittle of our negotiation position, that would be the best way to get the worst deal for the UK," May told MPs (Photo: Paul Vallejo)

She said that an existing joint ministerial committee, which governs relations with the devolved powers, would also meet “more regularly”.

She later told MPs in the House of Commons that she would call “a series of general debates on the UK’s future relationship with the EU” to take place “before and after the Christmas recess”.

She said the debates would cover “the high-level principles the government will pursue in the negotiations”, which are due to start at the end of March.

May, on Monday, repeated the broad principles of her approach.

These include aiming for a “bespoke” deal that allowed UK firms access to the single market, but also let Britain curb EU immigration and restore the primacy of its courts over that of EU tribunals in Luxembourg.

They include letting EU workers who are already in the UK stay there so long as British citizens who live in the EU can keep their place.

They also include close cooperation with the EU on foreign and security policy, including counter-terrorism.

She hinted, in the Commons debate, that if she could not secure an EU-level free-trade deal, she might opt for bilateral accords with member states.

Jot and tittle

She declined to reveal more, adding: “If the government were to set out every jot and tittle of our negotiation position, that would be the best way to get the worst deal for the UK”.

The new subcommittee and May’s comments did little to assuage criticism that, at this stage, she should have a more detailed plan.

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon again warned on Monday that she would call a referendum on Scottish independence if Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU, risked getting a bad deal.

"There's not a bit of what I'm doing just now that's bluffing or game-playing. This is not a game of chicken. It's not a game at all”, she said in London on Monday.

“At the moment, it doesn’t seem to me like there is a UK negotiating strategy”, she added.

Carwyn Jones, the Welsh leader, echoed his Scottish counterpart.

“Nothing concrete came out of the meeting [with May] and I am none the wiser as to what her proposals are … They don’t know what to do next,” he told The Guardian, a British newspaper.

Chaotic Brexit?

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said in parliament that May "quite clearly” had no Brexit plan.

“The rest of the world looks on and concludes that Britain has not got a clue. The truth is that this is not a soft Brexit, or even a hard Brexit; it is simply a chaotic Brexit,” he said.

He said that centre-left EU leaders in Brussels last Thursday had complained to him about May’s chauvinistic rhetoric.

“The tone taken by this Tory government … has damaged our global reputation and lost us a lot of good will, not just in Europe but around the world” he said. “The approach she and her party have taken has only spread anger and resentment all across Europe”.

May said EU leaders at last week’s summit had “commended” her Brexit speeches.

A poll out the same day by Survation for the ITV broadcaster said that 58 percent of people approved May's handling of Brexit so far, while 25 percent disapproved.

It also said 47 percent would vote to leave, against 46 percent who would vote to stay, if the EU referendum was held again.

Brexit men launch anti-EU website

Westmonster, modelled on hard-right US websites, said it was: "Pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump. Anti-establishment".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey