Theresa May has told us repeatedly that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and Philip Hammond has been at it too: just in case you weren’t aware, Brexit really does mean Brexit. Whilst it’s a catchphrase which is meant to reassure those who want Britain to leave the EU (and those who don’t, but respect the outcome of the vote), it’s actually pretty vapid. And on her trip up to Scotland today, the PM may have shown how her phrase could easily unravel. Theresa May said she was ‘very clear’ about involving the Scottish government in the Brexit negotiations and that she was eager to ‘get the best possible deal for the entire United Kingdom’. So far, so good, you may think. But she went on to also say the following:
‘I’ve already said I won’t be triggering Article 50 until I think we have a United Kingdom approach and objectives for the negotiations. I think it’s important we establish that before we trigger Article 50’.
Essentially, what that means is that Brexit won’t happen until everyone is happy. And whilst 'Brexit means Brexit', will we ever get to the stage of it happening if May is waiting for such an optimistic outcome? In trying to appease Brexiteers and her host in Scotland today, Nicola Sturgeon, all May is doing is kicking the ball down the street and delaying trouble. After all, here’s what Sturgeon had to say earlier this week about whether ‘Brexit means Brexit’:
‘Well, she has a mandate for that as far as England and Wales is concerned, but not for Scotland, not for Northern Ireland and not for Gibraltar. From my point of view, from the Scottish perspective, Remain means Remain. As First Minister of Scotland, just as Theresa May has a mandate, I too have a mandate and that mandate is to respect the wishes of the people in Scotland and now to find a way to keep Scotland in the European Union.’
Despite today’s demonstration of friendliness and smiles, it’s obvious that these two approaches are irreconcilable. May may say that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and that she wants a UK ‘approach’ but Sturgeon has already made it clear what she thinks that approach should be, and it doesn’t involve Brexit.