Returned to not very much power after a General Election where she went out to catch the public mood and somehow dropped it, Theresa May has now shifted her focus to the Brexit negotiations. Emboldened by her not particularly strong hand, and the magnificent delusion of many in and around our free and fearless press, she has gone to Brussels to tell those ghastly foreigners exactly where they get off.
We will, so the narrative goes, take back control, become once again masters of our own destiny, able to go out into the world and discover just how little clout our name carries nowadays. The problem, as ever, is the gulf between the version of reality peddled by the Tories and their press pals, and the actual reality for the other 27 EU member states. So it should surprise no-one that the PM’s efforts are going nowhere fast.
It's so bad that SHE is now a cabinet minister
This was made abundantly clear when Ms May declared that she had made a generous offer on the rights of EU citizens in the UK. The move was cheered to the rafters by the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate. Jakub Krupa of the Polish Press Agency, however, noted that the view from his country was less positive: “Poland's Europe Minister Szymański says he appreciates May's proposal, but considers it incomplete and not meeting all EU requirements”. He was not alone.
Guy Verhofstadt told “May’s ‘generous offer’ does not fully guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK”. The Independent reported “European leaders tell Theresa May her 'big offer' on EU citizens isn't good enough”. Nick Eardley of the BBC added “Donald Tusk says UK offer could worsen situation for citizens and falls below expectations”.
Labour MEP Richard Corbett helpfully explained “Why #TheresaMay offer on #rights of EU citizens already living in #Britain is in fact not so generous”. It was because she was telling those citizens they could have some of the rights they already enjoyed. And Rupert Myers reported Nick Clegg’s response to the mess: “The fate of EU citizens is the easiest bit, and they've screwed that up as well”. Could it get worse still?
As if you need to ask. Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom appeared before the inquisition of Emily Maitlis on Newsnight and told her “It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic”. Strewth, did we just declare war on someone?
John Harris of the Guardian, pausing to note caustically but correctly “Oceania is at war with Eurasia again”, had more interesting quotes from Ms Leadsom, including “We’re very well prepared for the negotiations” (no we’re not), “We have a very strong hand” (evidently not), and the magnificent “I am simply saying we all need to pull together as a country”.
What use “pulling together” will be when what we need is someone else to pull us out of the mire into which we have voluntarily fallen is not told. And the idea that a little censorship will stop Britain from being regarded across Europe as a laughing stock is beyond delusional. As the football chant goes, “they don’t know what they’re doing”.
Meanwhile, the Brexit clock ticks on. And nobody in the Government has the sense to stop it, and maybe ask if this is really such a great idea. I’ll just leave that one there.