'The end of May is finally here. Today in Westminster – at her umpteenth lectern appearance, addressing a weary press and public – prime minister Theresa May announced that she would step down as Tory leader on 7 June. Her voice cracked as she spoke of the honour of ‘serving the country I love’, before turning back to walk into No10. But she can spare us the tears, and commentators can spare us their pious sympathy.
Theresa May will go down in history as one of the worst prime ministers ever to lead this country. She came to power at a time of tremendous national crisis, but also opportunity. The Brexit vote was a demand for democratic and economic renewal, which at first she did well to channel in blustery speeches. But as her premiership has worn on, she has squandered that opportunity, and driven us further into crisis.
The Brexit deal she struck with the European Union was designed – she said – to bring Remainers and Leavers together. It would end free movement but keep us close to the EU. But in the end, all it achieved was to unite both sides against her, in parliament and the country. It was a deal that left us with less say over the EU rules that bind us than we have as members. She stood in the middle of the road and got hit by traffic from both directions.
May spoke in her speech today of compromise. But her eventual undoing over her ‘compromise’ deal reminds us what a necessarily binary issue Brexit is. You are either in or you are out. The so-called Soft Brexit option has always been sophistry. Whether or not we leave the EU has always been a question of whether we want stability or an uncertain but democratic future. This is how voters split at the referendum and remain split today.
May said she wanted to implement Brexit but in such a way that didn’t risk jobs. She has managed to achieve neither. Almost three years after Brexit we await the result of another EU election in which we took part. The uncertainty over our future arrangements is damaging jobs and industry. Meanwhile, we remain powerless under EU rules to intervene as we see fit – as the collapse of British Steel this week reminds us.'
Read more: Spare us your tears, Theresa
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