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May’s desperate pitch for cross-party unity is a leap into the dark | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
The surprise is that Brexit has still not forced any substantial correction of lazy Euro-bashing rhetoric with facts about British interests and the way they were served by EU membership. Continental leaders thought the pragmatic diplomat they dealt with in Brussels was the real Britain and the spittle-spraying nationalist was a stock character, strutting the repertory stage. It turns out to be the other way around. Or rather, the Conservative party has strapped the grimacing mask so tightly to its face that it is no longer a mask. Those are now the distorted features we show to the world.

This is not just disorienting for our neighbours. Millions of people feel that Brexit is a kind of performance that ran out of control; a mirthless carnival that spilled out of some fevered imaginations, captured Westminster and has nothing left to demand now beyond the right to continue spreading chaos. And seeing that spectacle, the question being asked in many European capitals and in many British homes is no longer how Brexit can be resolved. It goes deeper. They ask where the country they knew before Brexit has gone.
UK  EU  Brexit  politics  MayTheresa  softBrexit  CorbynJeremy  LabourParty  customsUnion  Article50  extension  trust  CooperYvette  LetwinOliver  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael  talks 
april 2019 by petej
The EU knows it, so do our own MPs – Theresa May is finished | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
The bankruptcy of May’s overseas enterprise has been coming since the day she set up shop in No 10. The squandering of credibility started almost at once, with the appointment of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary in 2016. Only someone with a tin ear for European sensibilities would have given the top diplomat job to a man known on the continent as a rogue peddler of anti-Brussels propaganda.

Then there was the early negotiating period, during which EU leaders thought May’s robotic, inscrutable manner concealed a deep, strategic intelligence. They came to realise that there was no mask. The inanity – the reciting of “Brexit means Brexit” even in private meetings – was not the cover story for a secret plan. It was the plan.

The point of no return was the summit in Salzburg last September. May was invited to make the case for what was left of her “Chequers plan” to European heads of government. It was late. They were tired. There were other difficult matters to attend to. And instead of speaking candidly, persuasively, passionately or even just coherently, the British prime minister read mechanically from a text that was, in substance, no different from an op-ed article already published under her name in a German newspaper that morning. It was embarrassing and insulting. Many European diplomats say that was the moment when Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and others realised they were dealing with someone out of her depth, unable to perform at the level required for the job that needed doing.

A similar story is emerging from last night’s summit. May was asked about backup plans in the event that parliament rejects her deal a third time. She had nothing. She restated her determination that the deal should pass. This infuriating obtuseness is grimly familiar on this side of the Channel. Cabinet ministers recognise the experience of being desperate for some glimpse of the prime minister’s calculations. People who want to support her have needed some window into the workings of her political brain, maybe just a peek at her soul. They get nothing. It is hard to build trust with someone so closed and hard to stay loyal.

There was a Salzburg-style moment for pro-European Tories on Wednesday night, when the prime minister went on television to berate MPs for obstructing her deal. The spirit was demagogic, even if the style was typically charmless. Here was a besieged leader, emerging from her bunker, presenting herself as the champion of her people against a rotten parliament. This did not go down well with MPs of any stripe. But it was most counterproductive with moderate Conservatives who have voted for May’s deal twice already and both times seen her respond to defeat by borrowing ideas and rhetoric from the hardliners who have given her nothing but humiliation. She rewards enemies of compromise by becoming ever less compromising.
UK  EU  Brexit  EU27  Article50  extension  noDeal  softBrexit  referendum  PeoplesVote  MayTheresa  leadership  summit  intransigence  incompetence  failure  politics  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael  EuropeanCouncil 
march 2019 by petej
Theresa May’s Brexit lost to the ultimate adversary: reality | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
This has been the greatest source of frustration and shock for the rest of Europe: the spectacle of a once serious country, formerly admired for the coolness of its temperament, racing towards perilous choices while turning its face defiantly against obvious realities. That, plus the tragic irony of history creating a vacancy for visionary leadership and then filling it with May.

There is an almost perfect mismatch between the prime minister’s character and the skills she has needed. She was blunt when she should have been diplomatic; inscrutable when she needed to be candid. When imagination was required, she opted for inane repetition. When she should have reached out, she doubled down. She appeased enemies of compromise in parliament and squandered goodwill in the country.

It can be hard to disentangle the disaster Brexit might always have been from the specific mess May has made of it. There are turnings on the road to failure that she did not need to take, junctions that were missed. She did not have to embark on the article 50 route before knowing where it led. She could have drawn different red lines or changed them when they confined her to impossible choices. But while there were problems with the driver, there were also limits to how far she could get with Brexiteer maps, scrawled in crayon on the eve of the referendum with wild, higgledy lines pointing at destinations that don’t exist.

The result is that the country has been driven round in circles. The parliamentary debate on May’s deal today was a gloomier, paler version of the one that was held in January. For much of the day the Commons benches were emptier than last time. The prime minister’s exhausted voice was hoarser. The deal was rejected by a smaller margin not because it has got any better, but because fear and exhaustion are catching up with Tory MPs, overtaking their belief that something better will come along.

As for the implacables who voted against May, they were not jubilant. They inflicted a defeat, but they know also that there was no victory here for any kind of Brexit. A ruinous no deal is still technically possible, but a chain of events has been triggered that could lead to postponement or even annulment of the whole project. The prime minister’s humiliation could rebound on to every Eurosceptic fanatic who urged her ever further and faster down the road to nowhere. Brexiteers have a dangerous adversary that they cannot name. It isn’t any opposition party, or Brussels, or remainers. It is reality.
UK  EU  Brexit  withdrawalAgreement  meaningfulVote  defeat  HouseOfCommons  Parliament  backstop  Euroscepticism  MayTheresa  politics  nationalism  delusion  leadership  failure  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael  intransigence 
march 2019 by petej
Don’t expect Brexit to give us a British Alexander Hamilton | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
This represents the confluence of two streams of British political culture. One is anti-intellectualism – admiring the gentleman dilettante who gets by on bluff and charm, socially superior to the sweaty scholarship boy who over-thinks and over-works. The other is moral complacency in holding up victory over fascism in 1945 as proof of eternal immunity to dangerous dogmas.
UK  Brexit  nationalism  delusion  victimhood  entitlement  noDeal  hardship  anti-intellectualism  complacency  politics  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
december 2018 by petej
short thread on a conversation many people having in parliament: 1. everything proceeds from presumption that there is no majority for May's deal. Also, there is no majority for no deal ...
short thread on a conversation many people having in parliament: 1. everything proceeds from presumption that there is no majority for May's deal. Also, there is no majority for no deal ...
UK  EU  Brexit  withdrawalAgreement  Parliament  PeoplesVote  softBrexit  politics  MayTheresa  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
december 2018 by petej

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