News & Politics

Britain: Pro-Brexit Won Referendum, But 'Remain' Will Produce New Prime Minister

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May leaves after attending a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, in London, Tuesday, July 12, 2016. Theresa May will become Britain's new Prime Minister on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Although “Leave” won the referendum in Great Britain about the question of whether or not the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Union, the Tories’ new leader belonged to the Remain camp. Theresa May has been elected as the new leader of Britain’s Conservatives and will become the country’s second female prime minister on Wednesday.

Her main rival, Andrea Leadsom, got out of the race yesterday, thereby handing the highest elected office in the country to May. As a result, the former ally of Prime Minister David Cameron is now scrambling to put a cabinet together in the 48 hours she was given by the current PM.

Since officially becoming the Tories’ new leader, May has reached out to the Leave camp by promising them she’ll respect the results of the referendum. UKIP leader and prominent EU skeptic Nigel Farage believes she’ll do as she says. As he wrote on Facebook:

A snap General Election would be good for UKIP, especially in the many Labour held seats in which we were placed second last year. I don’t think there is a desire in the country to have such an election though.

The government must now get on with its job and inspire confidence. Whilst I did not want Mrs May, a Remain supporter, to become Prime Minister she has now said “Brexit means Brexit”. To hold faith with over 17 million voters who opted for Leave she must trigger Article 50 at the earliest realistic opportunity. I hope she picks a strong negotiating team.

UKIP will be watching like a hawk to ensure that there is no backsliding.

Article 50 of the TEU (Treaty on European Union) allows member states to withdraw from the Union. It’s the article May has to invoke to actually get out. Although that sounds easy enough, it isn’t: it means she’ll have to negotiate with the EU about Britain’s exit and about the country’s new relationship with the European superstate. That process could take as many as two years — assuming May will actually do so, and I’m not too sure she will. If she wants, she can announce before new elections that she’ll stick to her old position and that she’ll interpret a new Tory victory as a rebuttal of the referendum.

Although Farage doesn’t seem to take that possibility seriously, some British commentators certainly do. As Norman Tebbit writes for the Telegraph:

Mrs May, who campaigned for the United Kingdom to remain a part of the European Union and lost, will now go to Brussels and tell Herr Juncker that she made a mistake and that really she wanted to leave. Indeed, she will have to tell him that the deal which Mr Cameron brought back from his negotiations earlier this year was not, as she thought at the time, a proper acknowledgment of the concerns of the British people, but a grudging and inadequate response to our needs.

But I doubt that the jurors in Brussels will be convinced. They know, as we all do, that Mrs May is convinced our future lies in Brussels, not Westminster.

Not only that, but she will have to persuade both us here at home and the bankers, investors and business people across the world that although she signed up to Mr Cameron’s “Dodgy Dossier” predicting all the alarming consequences of Brexit, she knew all along it was little more than a scare story.

In other words, when leading the negotiations with the EU, no one in Brussels will take May seriously. And that could very well mean that she’ll be forced to agree to a terrible Brexit deal, or she’ll do another 180 and eventually decide against a Brexit altogether.

That’s a very serious threat the Leave camp has to consider.

Thankfully, there is also good news. Tebbit continues:

Mrs May is now set to become Ukip’s greatest recruiting sergeant.

In recent years, the Tory ranks have shrunk from around 400,000 to something more like 150,000. Bitterly disappointed party members who campaigned successfully for Brexit now fear that the remainers have managed to turn defeat into victory and will join Ukip – alongside sensible Labour voters disgusted with both Mr Corbyn and Ms Eagle alike.

So, if May doesn’t follow through on her promise to get the UK out of the EU, UKIP is sure to rise in the polls and possibly even to stage a major upset in the next parliamentary elections. That should give all Europeans — this writer included — who oppose the megalomaniacal European project some hope after all.