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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.
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28 days ago by petej

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