Brexit Britain from Abroad: May Besieged at Home and Abroad by Brexit Wars
A Warning for May
Bulgaria, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, warned British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday about any plans to offer different residency schemes to EU nationals after Brexit. Lilyana Pavlova, Bulgarian Minister for the EU Presidency, said she was "worried" about May's statements in an interview with AFP. Mrs. Pavlova, a close friend of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, hopes that "in the end, support for citizens will be considered more important than popularity".
"The European acquis (laws, ed) should be applied during the transition period, it should be followed completely," insisted the minister. On Monday, the EU has established as one of the bases for the negotiation on a future transition period, after its effective withdrawal at the end of March 2019 and until the end of 2020, that the United Kingdom continues to respect the rules of the EU, including the rights of citizens to live and work wherever they wish, in exchange for access to the single market.
But Ms May opened a new debate after saying that Europeans arriving in the country during the 21-month transitional period should not get the same rights as those who arrived before Brexit. Bulgaria, which holds the EU presidency for the first half of the year, wants to protect both Bulgarians living in the UK and the British living in Romania. "So we are a little worried," Pavlova said.
Brexit Rhetoric Collides with Reality
The Brexit rhetoric is crashing into reality, as was always likely to happen. This was solved in phase one by London giving way on a number of key issues. But May is now paying the political price for this and an increasingly trenchant lobby is insisting that “ Brexit must mean Brexit”. The problem is this is the route to huge economic damage; leaked assessments undertaken for the UK government show the economic price of a hard Brexit.
Against this backdrop, the Irish Government faces a tough task. It must try to tie down the agreements reached in December while at the same time doing what it can to ensure the talks stay on track and that, in the short term, a transition agreement is reached. We need to bear in mind also that, although it would amount to costly economic madness, it remains possible that the talks will collapse.
Brexit is Tearing the Conservatives Apart
May would love nothing better than to drive the obsession with Europe out of her party. But she has so far failed in her efforts to give the Tories a friendlier face. Instead, she's constantly up against rebellions by both enemies and friends of the EU in Britain. Brexit overshadows everything.
That was also reflected in the long awaited recent cabinet reshuffle. May lacked the power and courage for a clear change of course. All of the prominent champions of the EU remained in office, as did all those who oppose membership -- even though the two groups have little to say to each other at this point. In May's cabinet, the two groups resemble the Cold War policy of mutually assured destruction.
The victorious Brexit camp has also long since disintegrated into splinter groups, ranging from those who want to see nothing change in the country's relationship with the EU to those who want everything to change. And that is before the most crucial negotiations with hated Brussels have even taken place. To prepare for that next phase, May is set to deliver her next major address on Brexit in the coming weeks. Expectations on the Continent, however, are low. Few in the EU believe it will shed much light on the British negotiating position.
May is Brexit’s Latest Victim
Theresa May has only herself to blame for the increasingly bitter “civil war” within her Conservative Party government, casting a shadow over Brexit negotiations. Her failure to provide strong, coherent leadership amid the infighting between hardline Tory Brexiteers demanding a “clean break” with the EU and “remainers” seeking a “soft landing” is putting her position in jeopardy and strengthening the hands of lunar left Labour Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Mrs May is in China attempting to build post-Brexit relations with Beijing’s leaders. But even there she has been unable to escape the bitterness sweeping the deeply divided Tory party. Brexit hardliners are blaming the UK’s top public servant for a dubious analysis that casts the economic consequences likely to result from Brexit in the worst possible light. More balanced analyses suggest otherwise.
The document is being seen by Brexiteers as part of a dark conspiracy by Europhile government ministers, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, and senior public servants to back away from the complete break with Europe voters supported strongly in last year’s historic referendum. Brexit hardliners accuse Mr Hammond of “letting the cat out of the bag’’ at Davos when he expressed hope that Britain would achieve an agreement that would leave it only “very modestly apart” from the EU after it officially leaves next year.
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