The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is between a brick and a hard place. She’s committed to carrying out Brexit, yet accepts that the European will not make negotiations easy for her. So, she has called her nation’s general election, not because an increased majority in the House would strengthen her bargaining hand (why would it?), but so that she can wipe out credible opposition and ensure that any deal (no matter how shabby and ineffectual) will be passed. It is all a means to which she can declare ‘I least I got Brexit at all.’
With the pretence of securing a mandate for “Brexit” the prime minister inadvertently revealed her true purpose:
The country is coming together but Westminster is not…. If we do not hold a general election now, their political game playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of “Brexit”, and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.
There are two reasons to quarrel with this. Perhaps we can accept that Westminster remains internally divided over “Brexit”. Such a sentiment was clear during the campaign of 2016, as the Leader of the Opposition swayed continuously over the position of his party on the matter. However, unity within Westminster is not necessary in the practice of governance. Furthermore, internal division here is not a bad thing as it indicates that the democratic process continues to function. Why should the Government fear the usual democratic freedom to opinion?
Second, it is implied that such domestic divisions weaken the resolve and mandate of the prime minister in the forthcoming engagements with her European negotiators. This is nonsense.
The Europeans currently exercise greater authority over the direction of the “Brexit” negotiations. We can surely agree that there is only one logical common denominator explaining the Conservative drive to power: the British negotiating hand with Europe is devastatingly weak.
Every diplomatic exchange made between London and Brussels fulfils this prognosis, evidenced by—for instance—the signals transmitted before and after the dinner between Mrs. May and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. The pre-dinner news photograph conveys a wholly nonreciprocal embrace: the former desperately clinging onto Brussels, the latter looking to push London away. Mr. Juncker afterward stated, “I had the impression that our British friends … underestimate the technical difficulties we have to face “.
The fuss kicked up by “Brexit” has done little to tear apart the EU, but instead has reaffirmed the willing membership of the other states. The hard-line stance adopted by Mr. Juncker (who has agenda-setting powers) has been praised by several other European leaders. (Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium warned of the hypothetical attempt by Britain to “split the … nations, and it is a trap we [the EU] need to avoid.” Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg argued, “Before you had the soft “Brexit” and the hard “Brexit”, and in future maybe you will have Theresa’s “Brexit”, so maybe that is the reason she organised the elections.”)
The election of Emmanuel Macron to the presidency of France, further reinforces my conviction that the British decision to leave the European Union will not necessarily facilitate a ripple-effect of nationalist segregation. Disunion is not inevitable.
So look again at the awkward juncture where the British prime minister cringingly shuffled within the halls of Brussels as the rest of Europe neglected the isolationist.
In the effort to clinch any possible deal, no matter its shabbiness, Mrs. May’s decision to call a snap election therefore endorses the entire annihilation of credible opposition to her authority. For the Conservatives, any deal really will do.