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MAY AND THATCHER - THE EU DIVIDE

International 12 Apr, 2019 Follow News

MAY AND THATCHER - THE EU DIVIDE

British prime minister Theresa May is obviously keen to escape the fate that befell Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first women prime minister. Mrs May is the second.

 

At the centre of Mrs Thatcher’s downfall in 1990 was Europe - sharing equal billing with the controversial Poll Tax.

 

Once again Europe looms large over what could very well be the denouement of another British leader. Gender is purely incidental in this situation.

 

It was Mrs Thatcher’s EU-sceptism, especially her fears that the European Commission was becoming too powerful, which led to her ouster by pro-EU members of her government.

 

Conversely, Mrs May who had campaigned to remain in the EU is facing her biggest battles from EU-sceptics within her party and government.

 

But unlike the Thatcher-takedown, there is as yet no single candidate coming forward to replace her, although some names are being mentioned including her former foreign minister Boris Johnson who quit in a bitter dispute with Mrs May over Brexit.

 

Brexit, the UK’s fractious exit for EU membership, is a political minefield that Prime Minister May is struggling to navigate.

 

Not only is her legacy at stake, her entire political career will be judged on the basis of Brexit.

 

Her handling of it; from the practicalities of the withdrawal negotiations, the political machinations, to the national economic impact and long term outlook, have all come under microscopic scrutiny.

 

The verdict to date has not quite been in her favour.

 

Both the ruling Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party are deeply split over Brexit.

 

Much to the dismay of many of the Brexit hardliners in her party, Mrs May is holding talks with the Labour Party in the hope of arriving at a consensus on how best to move forward with the UK’s exit from the EU.

 

But compromise is proving hard to reach.

 

The parties are so diametrically opposed to what the other wants that it’s hard to see a breakthrough.

 

Brexit practicalities aside, the individual political costs to Mrs May, and for opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, are so punitive that a stalemate seems the best outcome.

 

Already there are calls for Mrs May’s resignation from within her own divided party, especially over her decision to break bread with her political nemesis.

 

Mr Corbyn at present is doing only marginally better.

 

While he is not at the cutting edge of the EU negotiations, the Labour leader’s long hesitation in clearly articulating his position, especially on the issue of a second referendum, has cost him political capital.

 

But Mrs May is leaving anyway.

 

When the pressure over her handling of Brexit started mounting within her own party she announced that she would not be leading the Conservatives the next election.

 

Later on, with Brexit becoming bogged down in resignations and recriminations over her deal with the EU, she offered to bring her own exit forward, provided that parliament approves her Brexit deal. As things stand, that’s a distant and fading hope.

 

Attention within her own party is now being redirected on Mrs May’s political future in the short term.

 

In her party, the ardent Brexiteers are pushing for crashing out of the EU even without a deal.

 

To them Mrs May’s deal is unpalatable, and a deal with the Labour Party is unthinkable, primarily considering Mr Corbyn’s insistence on keeping the UK within the EU customs union.

 

Mr Corbyn is also calling for fresh elections hoping to capitalise on the deep splits over Brexit, especially within the ruling Conservative party.

 

But the very thought of the left-leaning Corbyn with his socialist agenda being prime minister is anathema to many Tories who push a capitalism agenda and accuse the Labour leader of being anti-business.

 

Margaret Thatcher’s legacy looms large here.

 

It was ‘Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter’ who had dismantled Labour party socialism when she came to power in 1979.

 

Ideologically there’s a lot at stake, and it’s a double-edged sword for Mrs May, ‘ the preacher’s daughter’ and the UK’s second women prime minister after Thatcher.

 

Although Brexit - the choice and process of the UK leaving the EU - is the ubiquitous base and forefront of the current political crisis, it is also Brexit which has stalemated British politics and has the country in a stranglehold of uncertainty.

 

Mrs May, like Margaret Thatcher before her with the Poll Tax and her EU-scepticism, is presiding over this political double-whammy having to straddle two massively divisive issues.

 

Her key red lines in her Brexit negotiations with the EU are being blurred almost to oblivion.

 

While she has been careful not to compare herself to the Iron Lady, Mrs May clearly sees some of Margaret Thatcher’s steely resolve reflected in her.

 

Where Mrs Thatcher was not for turning, Mrs May’s oft-repeated pledge to uphold the democratic outcome of the referendum echoes the stance of the Iron Lady.

 

United Kingdom parliamentarians are on their two-week Easter break until April 23rd.

 

It might be a break from parliament but it’s not a break from Brexit.

 

Some will pray. Mrs May, the preacher’s daughter is an avid churchgoer.

 

It’s a safe guess to assume that no other mind will be more focused on Brexit than that of Prime Minister Theresa May.

 

It’s safe to assume that something about Margaret Thatcher is on her reading list…and a bible.

 

For a way out of this crisis, prayer might be the only solution.


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