May's Florence Speech is Unlikely to Satisfy Anybody | Justin Bowie

Theresa May’s Brexit speech in Florence, during which she outlined plans for a transitional two-year deal, underline the fact that this is a process which is almost certainly going to alienate voters on either side of the divide.

Immediately after her speech had reached its conclusion and questions had been asked from journalists, Nigel Farage was interviewed on Sky News, and appeared to be in a rather pessimistic mood. The plan for a transitional deal will disappoint Brexit supporters who remain eager for the process to be accentuated.

Often suspicious as to the motives of a Conservative party who have been notoriously divided on the issue, they will feel that this implementation period of two years is a cop-out, one designed to minimise the extent to which we will actually be leaving the European Union.

Likewise they will be disheartened by Theresa May’s promise to honour financial commitments that have already been agreed upon. This approach is, of course, is a sensible one; the UK cannot expect to depart from the EU on terms of goodwill if they violate or ignore projects and commitments that they have previously made. Nevertheless, it will still anger many committed Brexit supporters who will feel as if the country is continuing to give substantial amounts money to a union that they have voted to leave.

May’s speech was filled with small attempts to appease the UK’s European partners. The Prime Minister emphasised that we continue to share many values with the EU, and that our exit from the European Union is not a departure from the European continent as a whole.

Yet nevertheless, her speech will have done little to appease those who remain ardently opposed to Brexit. Indeed, the very intention of a two-year transitional deal appears to be an indirect admission that the country is not in an ideal position to cope with Brexit during the timeframe set out by Article 50, and that we will need longer to do so.

If this is accepted as being the case, then there are questions to be asked as to why she did not wait longer to activate Article 50. Almost six months has passed since it was triggered, yet a substantial period of that time was spent facilitating May’s failed attempt to increase her own power in the form of June’s snap General Election.

Still the Prime Minister’s plans seem uncertain and unconvincing. The Article 50 process may be well underway, yet May’s speech was often vague and open to interpretation. She said, for example, that the Brexit process would be “imaginative and creative”. Quite what an ‘imaginative’ Brexit entails was not at all defined by the Prime Minister.

She claimed to be ‘optimistic’ regarding the future, however her transitional arrangement proposal appears to lean closer to pragmatism than optimism. Hampered by the uncertainty and division which looms over the entire process of exiting the EU, May is instead seeking a compromise. It will leave Remain voters in a position wherein they find themselves baffled as to why Brexit has been enacted at all, considering how unconfident the government seem to be in continuing with the process.

May finds herself in a position that may doom her either way. Continuing to pander to staunch Brexit supporters by ignoring certain financial commitments would be a diplomatic disaster, and likewise a “no deal” stance if an ideal one cannot be reached would be unwise economically.

Nevertheless, nothing short of a full-scale cancelling of Brexit will ever appease a substantial portion of those who remain positive in their outlook towards the EU, and such a move would be politically disastrous due to the democratic nature of last June’s vote.

The Prime Minister also finds herself having to pander to figures on both sides of her own party. She will be aware that the Eurosceptic wing of the party are far from delighted with the prospect of a two-year deal, and yet will also know that Conservative MP’s who voted Remain will be keen to scale back any distinctly ‘hard’ Brexit.

May’s poor public speaking ability, inept leadership and tendency to veer towards vague platitudes hardly helps her case, but there’s a case to be made that the Conservative leader finds herself in a position where she is doomed either way, irrespective of the approach she opts for. An approach which tends towards compromise may be ideal in ensuring that last June’s result is respected while trying to ensure the UK’s goes relatively undamaged economically, but it is not one which will appeal to the wider population as a whole, no matter what side they are on. I sincerely doubt David Cameron envies her.

Justin Bowie is a journalism student and writer for Student Voices.

May's Florence Speech is Unlikely to Satisfy Anybody | Justin Bowie May's Florence Speech is Unlikely to Satisfy Anybody | Justin Bowie Reviewed by Student Voices on 22:29 Rating: 5

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