Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: May’s Brexit Britain is a fantasy island

What the papers say: May's Brexit Britain is a fantasy island
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Theresa May’s Brexit statement in the Commons yesterday 'told us a great deal about what has happened already,’ says the Daily Telegraph. But the detail on ‘what happens next’ was thin on the ground. Once again, the PM ‘reaffirmed that the UK is leaving the EU on March 29, 2019’. Yet this told us little we didn’t already know when Article 50 was triggered six months ago. ‘The question now to be resolved is not whether we are leaving but on what basis,’ says the Telegraph. So what does Britain actually want from Brexit? The PM said, not for the first time, that the aim was to secure a “bespoke and ambitious” trade deal’ between the UK and the EU. While a few weeks ago there was question marks over whether May would make it to Christmas and be able to achieve this ambition, the PM now looks to have the ‘perseverance and dogged commitment’ that will be needed to thrash out a deal with Brussels. Yet there is a danger of the government becoming too focused on trade and losing ‘sight of other factors’, argues the Telegraph. After all, Brexit, according to the Telegraph, is about ‘opening up to the rest of the world and leaving the over-regulated EU’. The government must focus on making Brexit work and also stop Jeremy Corbyn from taking office. The Labour leader has said he ‘will probably be prime minister within a year. We need to disappoint him,’ concludes the Telegraph.

But the Guardian was not impressed by the PM’s performance in front of MPs yesterday. Yes, Brexit is ‘an enormous challenge’ for the government, the paper says. ‘But the Brexit statement she gave to the House of Commons on Monday was based not on reality but on unreality’. It is clear, says the Guardian, that ‘Mrs May’s Brexit Britain is a fantasy island’. The paper says that this is confirmed by May’s insistence that she 'is the master of Britain’s fate in these negotiations’. This is not the case, argues the paper, which says that the EU shaped the first stage of talks and will do the same when the discussion turns to trade in the new year. May's other fantasy, says the Guardian, is the ‘insistence that the two-year transitional period that she is seeking is an “implementation” period’. The paper calls this a ‘trick’ to calm Brexiteers, going on to suggest that whatever the PM says ‘there will be nothing to implement in 2019’. Finally, the ‘third great fantasy’ – and what the paper calls ‘the most dangerous of them all’ – is the lack of compatibility between the PM’s stated aim to uphold the Good Friday agreement and take Britain out of the single market and customs union. This is ‘not compatible’,  argues the Guardian, and the government is playing a dangerous game in pretending that it is. ‘British politics is crying out for truth not fantasy on Brexit. But Mrs May will not and cannot provide it,’ concludes the paper.

The Sun meanwhile turns its fire on what it calls the ’rich elite of the Remain resistance’. Lord Malloch-Brown’s appointment to a role co-ordinating the various pro-Remain groups shows that those determined to overrule the referendum result are yet to give up, according to the paper. The Sun calls this desire to ‘overturn the majority’s 17.4million votes’ dangerous and says those determined to disrupt Brexit should ask themselves a question: ‘Do they not worry what hideous forces they could unleash?’. Theresa May should be ‘commended’ for staying firm against such people, says the Sun. Whatever some may argue, May ‘must never waver’, argues the paper, and her approach must be to say: ‘No to single market and customs union membership. No to a second referendum. No to remaining shackled to EU rules while trade deals around the world are there to be struck,’ concludes the Sun.