Theresa May’s leaked Brexit comments show only one thing – the situation has changed
Theresa May had concerns about Brexit before the referendum. That’s the shocking revelation contained in a leaked recording of a speech she gave to Goldman Sachs staff prior to the vote. Only, it’s not shocking at all, given that the Prime Minister leant her support – however muted – to the remain side.
Yet commentators and her political opponents are using the recording to suggest that Mrs May is now being disingenuous in pursuing approach to negotiations that her government has taken. If she had all these concerns about the need for Britain to be part of the single market, why is she being less forceful now?
Well, the answer is simple: The situation has changed and, as Prime Minister, Theresa May is attempting to act upon the vote and not on her own personal views.
That she felt that Britain would be safer and more prosperous as part of the European Union prior to the vote does not alter the fact that a majority voted to leave. She is dealing with the facts as they are not as she wishes they may have been.
I wanted Britain to remain in the EU too but I can entirely understand why the government, led by Theresa May, is not keen on revealing its negotiating tactics too early nor creating policy based on the Prime Minister’s pre-referendum thoughts.
Theresa May is attempting to navigate towards the best possible Brexit deal for Britain. She’s playing the cards available to her, though she may have wished for an entirely different hand.
It’s also worth noting that the Prime Minister leads a cabinet that contains a mixture of those who shouted loudly for leave and others who were staunchly for remain. She has to listen to all of those views and many others.
The view taken by Labour seems to be that Mrs May should stick doggedly to her pre-referendum position, despite the referendum result and the position held by many in her party. Surely it wouldn’t want her to ignore democratic mandates in any other situation?
It’s entirely possible for Theresa May to have sincerely held the views expressed in the Goldman Sachs audio and to now, also sincerely, be committed to achieving the best possible deal for Britain after it exits the EU.
She also hasn’t abandoned her belief in the benefits of the single market. She said as much in her Tory Party conference speech. She simply isn’t able to be so unequivocal in advance of negotiations – they will be too hard fought for that.
The Prime Minister also indicated, again in a speech before the referendum, that Britain would “cope” outside the EU: “Britain is big enough and strong enough to be a success story in or out of the EU.”
It hardly required a leaked recording to know that Theresa May’s views were nuanced and it doesn’t mean she’ll do a bad job for Britain.