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Theresa May: Talking Tough, Grasping for Air

By       Message Jean-Luc Basle       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 1/22/17

Author 75077
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Prime minister, Theresa May sounded self-assured on January 17 th telling the world how she will go about implementing the June 23 rd decision, but was she really?

The referendum was a colossal blunder. Its unexpected result threatens the unity of the Kingdom. Theresa May spent a fair amount of time reassuring the Scotts that while foreign policy is a central government's prerogative their voices will be heard and taken into account. Translation: no need for a new referendum on Scotland's independence. How will government officials and civil servants on both sides reconcile the two points of view remains an open question.

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Speaking as if the blunder was an opportunity, Theresa May presented Brexit as a chance to become "a great, global trading nation that is respected around the world, strong, confident and united at home". Thus, the country should "emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before". To do this, Theresa May will take several initiatives. Britain will sign a "comprehensive Free Trade Agreement" with the European Union while retaining its freedom to establish its "own tariff schedules at the World Trade Organisation" -- a somewhat contradictory proposition. Recognizing that Britain is a multicultural society but aware that the country has experienced "record levels of net migration", she will curb immigration which "puts pressure on public services" and "downward pressure on wages", in response to one of the electors' demands. At the same time, she will attract the best and the brightest, and guarantee "the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain" in the hope that the European Union will reciprocate.

Speaking this way, Theresa May is in her role as prime minister. It is her duty to sound optimistic and rally people around her. But, her comments on the European Union will raise eyebrows across the Channel. She sounds disingenuous when she claims she does not want Brexit to "herald the beginning of a greater unravelling of the EU". Nothing would please many Britons more than a collapse of the Union. As if this was not enough, in a veiled criticism of the European Union's sometimes rough manners, she stated that "crushing into tiny pieces the very things you want to protect" is not the best way to deal with differences of opinions and interests. Finally and incredibly, she threatens the Union with "competitive tax rates" and the adoption of "policies that would attract the world's best companies and biggest investors" if Britain "were excluded from accessing the Single Market". This is tantamount to turning the United Kingdom into a huge tax haven. Not the best way to enter into a delicate and complex negotiation.

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Britain is in a dire situation. Scotts may recover their freedom amputating the country of a large portion of its territory. Britain has a chronic trade deficit. Becoming a "global trading nation" does not make sense unless its economy becomes more competitive. One of the country's strengths resides in its banking sector which accounts for 10% of its gross domestic product. The City will lose easy access to the European market once Brexit is in place. The truth of the matter is that Britain runs the risk of being isolated which is why Theresa May is so intent in signing a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union to the point of uttering threats. Siding with the United States, as Donald Trump is encouraging her to do, would turn Britain into a vassal of the American Empire, akin to Canada or Mexico -- not an appealing alternative.

No one knows how Britain will weather the June 23 rd decision. The pound sterling took a beating but the 10 year government bond rate is holding up and the FTSE is doing very well. But the period of uncertainty the country is entering is fraught with perils. It must be ended as soon as possible. Winston Churchill once said: "If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea." That was true in the glorious days of the Empire. They are gone. The time has come to choose Europe. Rejoining will be no easy task. Meshing British individualism with continental Europe's uniformity will be a tall order. Theresa May has put on a good show on January 17 th but not everyone was fooled. She was grasping for air.

 

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Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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