After seven months of “Brexit means Brexit”, Theresa May finally put some flesh on the bones of the Government’s plan for leaving the EU this week.
Whilst the PM is popular with the public, in Westminster and media circles these days there is talk of how she is struggling with the job; and as a result political opponents and the press pack were readying themselves to leap on any weaknesses in her Brexit plan.
But, by common consent, her critics were disappointed. Framed as a twelve point plan it set out Britain’s key negotiating positions (an end to free movement; leaving the Single Market; some relationship with the Customs Union) and its timing. Like Brexit or not, we’re a good bit clearer on what happens next than we were a week ago. As we have said before, the most likely outcome is a hard Brexit, and this weeks speech confirmed that.
Of course the hard work really starts now. With the objectives of the negotiation clear, the PM will be judged on whether she can deliver on them. Whilst the British press gave her good reviews, the headlines on the continent were almost universally hostile. If other European Government’s start to think there are votes in Brit-bashing, then elections in France and Germany in the next year could point to tougher times ahead. On the other hand, after the voting tsunamis of 2016, who knows what electoral outcomes we might be facing throughout 2017.