Advertisement
Features

May's plans shot down in Salzburg

Yet the UK is still tottering towards a form of Brexit that suits nobody. Emily Hohler reports.

915-May-634
Theresa May's plans were brushed aside by Europe's leaders

"Like many divorces," the struggle between the European Union and the United Kingdom has become increasingly bitter, says Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal. At last week's EU summit in Salzburg, the assembled nations "contemptuously brushed aside" Prime Minister Theresa May's Chequers Brexit plan.

If there is no deal by 29 March 2019, "onerous trade barriers will snap into place". Not that their response should have been a surprise. To many Europeans, the Chequers deal looks like cherry-picking. EU leaders also reason that if secession is made too easy, others will follow.

Why Salzburg doesn't matter

Unfortunately for May, Europe is having an "existential" crisis and punishing Britain is one of the few things EU members can agree on, says Iain Martin in the Times. The Visegrad Four (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) are hardline opponents of migration and in conflict with Brussels.

Advertisement - Article continues below

This division stems from "overreach" of an organisation that was "designed to foster European harmony" but stopped paying attentions to voters' concerns. Now May faces the "daunting task" of having to "reset her Brexit policy" but she can do so knowing that the EU is a "terrible organisation we should be glad to leave".

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Reframing Brexit as a "victim's necessary escape from an abusive, domineering partner" is a cop-out, says Clare Foges in the same paper. What May needs is a "detailed, realistic plan" that answers the Irish border question, that "delivers for the UK economy" and "that will make it through parliament and win the agreement of 27 EU leaders". And we're not as far from an agreement like that as the "current heated reporting and controversy" implies, says David Allen Green in the Financial Times.

"The differences on the Irish backstop are over practice rather than principle." We are still on schedule, even if the UK is "heading towards a form of Brexit" that "almost nobody" wants and that won't be to our advantage. There are growing calls for a second referendum to steer the country back on to a more sensible course but this unlikely. So Britain will cease to be member of the EU on 29 March, unless "something exceptional" happens. Salzburg is just another step towards that.

Not even close to a plan

So perhaps it's time to look at the Institute of Economic Affairs' "Plan A+", unveiled on Monday, says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Daily Telegraph.

Advertisement - Article continues below

This scheme, which has won the backing of leading Brexiteers including David Davis, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, argues we should "ditch all talk of the EU single market and customs union, instead going global on multiple fronts in a quick-footed campaign" to forge trade agreements. This would end the "wrangling" over cherry-picking, and there would no longer be talk of "breaching the EU's four freedoms'".

Yet the plan is based on "dubious maths" and "its conclusions cannot bear any weight", says Chris Cook on the BBC. Even the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party who May relies on for her majority slammed it as "vague and contradictory", says the Belfast News Letter.

Overall, all it deserves is an A+ for idiocy, says John Crace in the Guardian. The only place where more Brexit nonsense was being spouted was at Labour's party conference in Liverpool, where everyone seemed to agree that the whole thing was a terrible idea, yet the party leadership reckoned the solution lay in offering people a vote on a bad deal or an even worse deal. "Clowns to the left, jokers to the right." And Britain remains stuck in the middle.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Beyond the Brexit talk, the British economy isn’t doing too badly
Economy

Beyond the Brexit talk, the British economy isn’t doing too badly

The political Brexit pantomime aside, Britain is in pretty good shape. With near-record employment, strong wage growth and modest inflation, there is …
17 Oct 2019
UK house prices hit a new record high – can it last?
House prices

UK house prices hit a new record high – can it last?

Despite the pandemic, UK house prices have hit a new high. John Stepek looks at what’s driving the surge in prices, and what it means for house prices…
7 Aug 2020
We're all going to have to be a lot more flexible
UK Economy

We're all going to have to be a lot more flexible

As the world gets older, we'll all have to retire later and finance it for longer. That's going to take a major rethink about an awful lot of things, …
6 Aug 2020

Most Popular

Don’t despair on dividends – these companies could be set to bring them back
Income investing

Don’t despair on dividends – these companies could be set to bring them back

The value of dividends paid out by UK stocks has plummeted this year as companies “rebase” their payment policies. But things could soon start to look…
6 Aug 2020
Gold hits the big $2,000 level – are Aim miners about to play catch up?
Gold

Gold hits the big $2,000 level – are Aim miners about to play catch up?

With the price of gold shooting through $2,000 an ounce, the yellow metal looks unstoppable. Things are so bullish, even Aim-listed junior gold miners…
5 Aug 2020
Too embarrassed to ask: what is “real return”?
Too embarrassed to ask

Too embarrassed to ask: what is “real return”?

MoneyWeek's latest "too embarrassed to ask” video explains what a real return is and why it's so important for investors.
5 Aug 2020