Friday 22 September 2017

Mrs May's Florence ambush - setting the stage for a walk-out.

I think Mrs May's speech in Florence yesterday was a turning point. Though it was short on detail, it was heavy on soothing rhetoric. This is not out of the ordinary, but the fact it was billed as a game changer and given in Florence (to much fanfare) tells us this is all part of a propaganda stunt aimed at a domestic audience.

Though the speech has been universally panned on Twitter, it should not be forgotten that Twitter is largely a bubble where hacks interact with each other to the exclusion of all else. The layman and the party faithful, however, will see it only at face value - an ambitious and reasonable offer to the EU. In politics you only need fool some of the people some of the time.

The speech, though, is an ambush. Because of the technical nature of Brexit, the EU first needs the procedural elements completed as per the Article 50 sequence. There is nothing in Mrs May's speech which addresses any of the phase one issues or adds any weight to the position papers thus far submitted. Thus, there is nothing the Commission can say apart from a reiteration of that which has already been said for the billionth time; rhetoric is insufficient.

That means Mrs may can now play the "unreasonable and inflexible" card - painting the EU as the obstacle - while the right wing media messages that same narrative. In effect the government is giving the Commission the runaround by failing to engage in talks at all. Even our position papers have been insultingly shallow - and probably not by accident. This is to maintain the illusion that serious negotiations are underway. This explains why May felt it necessary to say that we have already agreed in a number of areas when in fact nothing has been agreed at all.

It rather looks to me like the stage is being set for a walkout - and one which has been planned for some time. At the very least the Commission's rejection of May's "offer" will give her the capital she needs to play it tough to the home crowd at the Tory conference. Meanwhile, the media have fallen for the decoy, trying to read the runes with regard to the future relationship. They have failed to spot that the speech is deliberately short on detail. This was not intended to bring any clarity to the proceedings. Quite the opposite. This is a political ploy.

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