“Brexit means Brexit.” So said Theresa May when she secured election as leader of the Conservative Party after that joyous day when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.
David Cameron, who had unsuccessfully led the campaign to remain in the EU, resigned in humiliation as Prime Minister. Mrs. May, as his successor, assured those of us who had campaigned throughout our political lifetimes for the UK to become an independent nation once again that she could be trusted.
The will of the people, we were repeatedly told, would be respected.
On 29 March 2017, Parliament voted to invoke the provisions of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the formal means by which a member state of the European Union gives two years’ notice of its intention to leave the union of 28 nations comprising most of Western and Central Europe.
Then the wheels came off.
Buoyed by a substantial opinion poll lead, Mrs. May called an early general election for 8 June 2017. In Jeremy Corbyn, the Conservatives were facing a left-wing Labour Party leader who has been on the wrong side of every battle over the past 40 years – a man who truly has palled around with despots and terrorists such as Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, and Fidel Castro and whose love of socialism would make even Bernie Sanders blush.
The general election was a disaster for Mrs. May. Instead of securing a larger mandate, voters rejected her vision for the country. Her campaign was feeble. Think Jeb Bush or Ted Kennedy in the presidential primaries, but even worse. She exhibited the charisma of dry flannel and has become known as “the Maybot” for her habit of repeating meaningless mantra that fail to resonate with voters.
She was narrowly returned to 10 Downing Street but governs in coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Without their support, she would be unable to govern at all.
Since June 2017, Mrs. May has tried to secure Brussels’ agreement to a deal that would see the UK regain control of its borders, its money, and its laws.
Instead, she was only able to negotiate a withdrawal agreement that, while regaining control of our borders, would cost us $50 billion by way of a divorce deal and which would continue to give the European Court of Justice power over our laws.
Even Jeff Bezos will not have to pay that much as part of his divorce settlement.
Mrs. May’s deal was resoundingly rejected by the House of Commons last week. Her defeat, by a majority of 230 votes, is the largest suffered by any government in British political history (which, as Parliament first assembled in 1265, is what Joe Biden would call “a big f***ing deal”).
Some Conservative MPs, despite being elected on a manifesto promising to honour the referendum result, are now openly conspiring with Labour to overturn Brexit.
They feign that my favoured alternative – leaving on 29 March 2019 without a deal, meaning that the UK would simply trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms (which is how the UK trades with the US and the two nations are each other’s greatest allies and highest external investors) – would be a disaster.
We would, they say, suffer from food and medicine shortages – re-running the same “Project Fear” scare tactics that repelled voters during the referendum campaign.
Rather than ensuring that the UK regains control of our borders, money, and laws, these treacherous “Conservatives” (who all begrudge losing the referendum) are intent on revoking or delaying Article 50, renegotiating Mrs May’s deal so that the UK, to all intents and purposes, remains in the EU and then putting this betrayal of the voters to the people in a further referendum.
They will make sure that remainers do not lose again and that, like France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark (who all voted “the wrong way” and were then undemocratically told to vote again by Brussels), the UK recants and remains on the path to ever closer union with the other 27 member states of the EU. In time, the Pound will be replaced by the Euro and our armed forces will fall under the control of Brussels too.
For someone who has invested 25 years as a Conservative activist, training thousands of young conservative leaders (many of who played prominent roles in the referendum), this is about as heartbreaking as politics gets.
The establishment has conspired against the will of the people, as so clearly expressed in the referendum in 2016. Aided by an improperly partisan arbiter of debates in the House of Commons, Speaker John Bercow, remainers are set to defeat Brexit in the coming days.
What hope is there?
Can Mrs. May be removed by her own Party? Unfortunately not: Conservative MPs who tried to remove her last month failed to muster enough support to do so and she is safe as leader of the Conservative Party for another year.
Could the Queen intervene? If only. Unfortunately the last time a monarch overruled the will of Parliament was in the era of Queen Anne (1702-1714).
Might revolution be in the air? I fear so. If MPs really do conspire to disregard the will of the people and overturn the result of the referendum, I do not rule out seeing violence on the streets of the United Kingdom. Where that might end, nobody knows.
How could this have happened? Put simply, the answer to this is found in two words: Theresa May. She has failed to build a cross-party consensus for Brexit and has ruled over a minority government as if she is as powerful as Margaret Thatcher in her pomp. She has not listened to advice at all.
Before her foolhardy decision to go to the country in June 2017, Mrs. May said that she did not want to be seen as another Margaret Thatcher (who won three general elections and who bestrides British politics still as a colossus, even after her death in 2013).
It would be fair to say that nobody would ever confuse this feeble excuse for a Prime Minister for the Iron Lady.
And thanks to her, the United Kingdom is about to pass up the greatest opportunity for a generation to re-enter the world of free and independent nations – a tragedy not just for British citizens but the United Kingdom’s friends and allies around the world.
Donal Blaney is the Founder of the Margaret Thatcher Centre, a charitable project which runs programs in partnership with Young America’s Foundation and that works to teach future generations worldwide about Margaret Thatcher’s life, values and achievements.