Where Would May be Without Brexit? | Katie Jones

The hopes of ‘remainers’ were raised towards the end of 2017 when, in the face of troublesome Brexit negotiations, onlookers such as Lord Heseltine speculated that Britain would simply not leave the European Union. However, with significant progress in talks just prior to the festive period these hopes were quickly dashed.

A pro-EU supporter myself, as I initially watched May and her team leave yet another unsuccessful talk, it got me thinking: where in the world would the PM be without Brexit? What would she be doing during all of that time now unapologetically dedicated to icy stares and tense pauses across a negotiating table in the heart of Brussels? How would her image be faring without the albatross of Brexit forever on her shoulders?

For many of us, imagining a world without Brexit is a nice respite from pressing realities. Some may call me idealistic. Of course, Brexit means Brexit (if anybody is really sure what that signifies, even now). We will, unfortunately, leave the EU. Likewise, if Britain had voted remain, it is highly unlikely that May would have taken the reins from Cameron by now. She can certainly accredit Brexit for pushing her into the position she holds today.

Yet, if Brexit had been voted against and May somehow acquired her current position in another way (perhaps as a result of a political scandal or another element provoking the resignation of Cameron), where would she be? If Britain was set to remain in the EU, how would May fare?

First and foremost, it is likely that May would be attempting to reassert Britain’s legitimacy as an EU member. Of course, she would be spending a lot less time flying to and from Brussels as the aim of shaping departure negotiations would cease to exist. Nonetheless, following a referendum of this scope, May would have a serious task on her hands to prove the UK’s renewed commitment to the EU and its member nations. Done successfully, she would enjoy reinforced and strengthened relations with EU superfans Germany and France (under Macron), who, in the face of Brexit view Britain (and perhaps May, herself) with an air of scepticism, suspicion and slight animosity. Without question, she would have to dedicate substantial amounts of time to carving a strengthened relationship and promoting Britain’s pro-EU stance. Diplomatic meetings, friendly visits to EU countries, handshakes and smiles would be abundant. Yet, arguably, this state of affairs would be a lot more promising and less time consuming or intense than the bleak negotiations that currently grace our television screens whenever the evening news is aired.

What of May’s time? What would be her focus during those moments currently spent flying to and from Brussels? Ironically enough, those voting for Brexit based on the premise that ‘Britain should focus on Britain and not the EU’ would find that a remain verdict would mean a greater focus on domestic policy for May. Who knows what she would embark upon? Perhaps more austerity (booooo!), but surely she would have more time to dedicate to pushing Britain forwards in a plethora of other ways, through strengthening itself domestically. Maybe this would be through assigning greater attention to the healthcare system, in dire need of imminent support, rather than to-ing and throw-ing with EU negotiators. This is where the Brexiteers will reply that leaving the EU will indeed allow Britain a greater focus on its domestic policy in the long term and have more money to spend on its related ventures. In short, this remains to be seen. With May currently trapped in seemingly endless negotiations and burdened with a costly divorce bill, we can easily envision that imminent years without Brexit would see a comparatively greater focus on strengthening Britain from the inside, from the PM at least.

Finally, what would a Brexit-free May’s image entail? How would she be viewed by the media and even voters? Nobody knows, of course. Media outlets can change their mind from day to day on how favourably they wish to depict a given politician, or anybody else for that matter. Yet, given the dire coverage May has been given in the national press and beyond, particularly in relation to pieces concerning Brexit talks, it is likely that she would be a more popular PM, to say the least. Troublesome talks and setbacks mean that she is widely depicted as weak, lacking authority and politically vulnerable. Indeed, cabinet scandals and disastrous speeches at party conferences do not help on this front. However, without the burden of Brexit, it is unlikely that, in the realms of foreign policy at least, May would be riddled with these image connotations, particularly as a remainer herself which would complement her overall credentials.

So, it is without question that Theresa May would be leading a very different professional life (and country) without Brexit on her shoulders. Sadly, we do not know where in the world she or we would be without our ever-approaching departure. We can only dream.

Katie Jones is a write for Student Voices

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