Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland: PM spoke of her desire for a ‘red, white and blue’ Brexit... now she hoists the white flag of surrender

Many so-called ‘British’ businesses backing the withdrawal deal are in fact foreign-owned, says Nelson McCausland

Theresa May is struggling to sell her deal to parliament and the people of the UK
Theresa May is struggling to sell her deal to parliament and the people of the UK

The day after the People’s Vote, David Cameron resigned and was succeeded by Theresa May. In her first speech, she declared: “The full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party and that word unionist is very important to me. It means we believe in the Union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Writing in The Guardian that day, Anne Perkins said: “It emphasises her determination to preserve the United Kingdom through the vicissitudes of the Brexit negotiations.”

Later that year, the PM said: “People talk about the sort of Brexit that there is going to be — actually, we want a red, white and blue Brexit.”

Those are all heart-warming words. But has Theresa May honoured her promises and pledges? Does her deal fulfil what she promised? Unfortunately, the answer is no. There’s nothing “red, white and blue” about her deal. Instead, she has raised the white flag of surrender and settled for what she sees as the “least worst” surrender.

She told us that “no deal would be better than a bad deal”, indicating that she would be prepared to walk away from the table if an acceptable deal could not be agreed.

However, the EU negotiators didn’t really believe her and were convinced that they could coerce her into accepting a bad deal.

They were determined to enforce a deal that would deter any other country that might consider leaving.

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Worst of all, she failed to challenge the key strategy of Brussels and Dublin in weaponising the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. That was one of her biggest mistakes.

This has always been a manufactured issue, magnified out of all proportion, and yet she bought into it and allowed it to dominate the discourse.

As a result, she has been forced to accept a draft deal which concedes a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Now, she is trying to sell her deal to the parliament and people of the United Kingdom — and she is struggling. So, it is time for her to call on the ‘business sector’ and any other sector that will ride to her aid.

That’s what happens when the Government is trying to sell us something that is unpalatable.

We saw that in 1998 with the Belfast Agreement, we saw it again with Cameron’s ‘Project Fear’ — and we are seeing it again.

Already, several business organisations have jumped in to back Theresa May’s deal, but it’s worth reflecting on that term ‘British businesses’. Many of the businesses that are backing Theresa May’s deal are, in fact, foreign-owned multinationals, which have factories all around the world. To describe them as ‘British businesses’ is somewhat misleading.

For example, Cadbury, which is associated with Bournville in England, was bought over by the American firm Kraft Foods (now Mondelez International) in 2010. It is, in one sense, a British company, but it is wholly owned by an American multinational and the owners look at things in that multinational way, favouring internationalisation and globalisation.

Cadbury has been producing some of its chocolate in Eastern Europe for the past 20 years and Mondelez has seven factories in Poland, with the largest producing six Cadbury products.

It is certainly worth remembering that when some businesses talk of moving post-Brexit from the UK to the EU. Long before Brexit and long before the People’s Vote, many of these businesses had set up in Eastern Europe, with its lower wages and worse working conditions.

Some people may be swayed by this lobbying, but the one thing Theresa May cannot get round is the fact that her government is a minority government and, on this issue, a significant number of her MPs, both Leavers and Remainers, are opposed to her. So, it is hard to see how she can get her deal through a ‘meaningful vote’ in parliament.

I can well recall being in a BBC studio on the night of the last election and hearing, just a few minutes before the polls closed, that they were predicting a hung parliament.

I knew that the arithmetic would be important, but I didn’t realise just how important it would be.

Belfast Telegraph


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