It is blindingly obvious that Theresa May needs to go

Posted By: January 18, 2019

Alex Kane. Irish News. Belfast. Friday, January 18, 2019

One thing is certain: indeed it has been certain since June 24, 2016. There is not a parliamentary majority for a clean break exit from the European Union.

Even if we had another general election,  I’m pretty sure there still wouldn’t be the required majority. And nor is there a parliamentary majority for leaving the EU without a deal. Anyway, does anyone really think that come one minute past 11 am on March 29 – and in the absence of a deal – we would suddenly have a stable government, a clear game plan and the ocean of legislation needed for the new circumstances?

But the most tiresome mantra I’ve heard over the past two years is: “We can just leave without a deal and trade under the World Trade Organisation rules.” The mantra is actually all I’ve heard because I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of how it would all work as quickly as we would need it to work.

Yes, trade deals and arrangements are possible; but those deals and arrangements require negotiation, hard work and time. Not one of those new deals exists right now, and it’s unlikely that any will exist at one minute past 11 am on March 29. As for the Norway Model and Canada Plus (and the handful of others which have been tossed into debate over the past two years): none of them will be ready in the next 70 or so days because none of them are even in the first stages of negotiation.

As for Mrs. May, she should have resigned on Tuesday evening. Her agreement wasn’t so much defeated as steamrollered. She isn’t even a prime minister in name only. She is nothing. She will trot back to the Commons on Monday with an ‘amendable motion,’ knowing that it means nothing and that she may not even gather a majority for it. She hasn’t the sense to put herself out of her own misery.

It’s fashionable – in that very ‘British’ way of rallying around people like Eddie the Eagle – to praise her for grit and fighting spirit. But, let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t trust her to look after our dog for the afternoon. We’d return to find a budgie trained to tweet La Marseillaise. I don’t see how she clings on for much longer. I don’t understand why she even wants to.

The absence of a parliamentary majority for a clean break or no deal means that the only way of getting something through is for the prime minister (and it can’t be her) to build a cross-party coalition around a deal that will command a majority. That, of course, means a soft landing deal that Labour and others can buy into.

But it could also mean a serious and formal fissure in the Conservative Party, for there is very little chance of Rees-Mogg’s ERG core of 80 or so MPs ever backing a soft landing deal. It would take a particularly courageous Conservative leader to propose such a course of action. They will have seen what happened to David Trimble when he split his party for what he believed to be a necessary deal with his political/constitutional opponents.

The demand for another referendum is still growing. I’ve always thought one was likely (and said so in a piece for another paper on June 27, 2016 – a few days after the first referendum): that said, it’s a very dangerous path. First, it would be an admission that Parliament was unable – in many instances, unwilling – to implement a choice that it asked the people of the United Kingdom to make over 30 months ago. In David Cameron’s case he didn’t even bother to try and implement it: choosing, instead, to run as far and as fast away from his own mess as he could.

Second, another referendum would pit Parliament against the people and would, I think, be a brutal, toxic, divisive and hugely damaging encounter; from which there would be no clear winner. Millions of people who voted Leave in June 2016 would vote to Leave again. And this time they would be accusing their own Parliament of siding with the EU over democracy in the United Kingdom. Such a battle cannot end well. But that battle may now be unavoidable if Parliament can’t agree on a deal and a general election doesn’t shift the arithmetic – which I don’t think it would.

One thing does strike me as blindingly obvious, though; Mrs. May needs to go. She cannot bend either Parliament or the EU to her will, let alone her vision. She has no function and serves no role, other than that of an object of ridicule and pity…