Desperate displays of deluded defiance will only end in disaster

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The more Theresa May tries to sound defiant, the more desperate she seems.

After her weak and rattled statement in Salzburg yesterday, Number 10 had little choice but to send her out for a second take today. But this latest attempt to cast herself as a leader who brooks no compromise is utterly unconvincing.

So too is her confected anger at the European Council for dismissing her Chequers proposal. European leaders made clear that it would be a non-starter long before the Prime Minister corralled her Cabinet into signing up to it. And her own back benchers have declared that it would be dead on arrival in Parliament anyway.

Chequers isn’t the great hope that Theresa May pretends. It’s unworkable.

Chequers isn’t the great hope for a smooth and successful Brexit that Theresa May pretends. It’s unworkable; it says nothing about the services sector that makes up 80% of Britain’s economy; and it’s been rejected by both the European Union and the hard Brexit Tories.

So much for making a success of Brexit.

Theresa May’s decision, a year and a half ago, to trigger Article 50 set the UK careering towards the cliff edge. In the 18 months since, she has wrestled over the steering wheel with the likes of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg. They’ve swerved the country this way and that, but the direction of travel remains unchanged. We are rapidly running out of road.

And in today’s speech, with her tacit acceptance of a no deal Brexit, the Prime Minister effectively ripped off the steering wheel. We are now heading straight for the worst possible outcome – crashing out of the EU with no deal for what comes next – and we have little means of changing direction.

The only option now is to slam on the brakes.

By her own admission, Theresa May’s negotiations have failed spectacularly.

By her own admission, Theresa May’s negotiations have failed spectacularly. She clearly hasn’t made the progress she expected when she triggered Article 50. So instead of blaming others and feigning indignance, how about a little humility? Instead of pushing ahead with a strategy that patently isn’t working, how about listening to those of us who’ve been warning her all along?

The Prime Minister should extend the Article 50 period until she can put whatever deal she finally gets – or her lack of a deal – to the British people, alongside the option of remaining in the EU. Given the mess we now find ourselves in, only a plan endorsed by the public can have the credibility and legitimacy to work.

That’s the only way to prevent us plummeting off the cliff. Desperate displays of deluded defiance will only end in disaster.