James Forsyth

Will Theresa May’s big Brexit gamble pay off?

Will Theresa May's big Brexit gamble pay off?
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Theresa May has attempted to put the ball back in the EU’s court this afternoon. After the rejection of her Chequers plan at the Salzburg summit, May has told British voters and the EU that she regards no deal as preferable to either the UK being in the EEA and the Customs Union or a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. She said that if the EU wants to reject Chequers, it is incumbent on them to come back with an alternative proposal.

The question is whether the EU takes this no deal threat seriously. The fact that the government only properly began preparing for leaving without an agreement this summer – and the balance of opinion in parliament – means that most figures in the EU think that, when push comes to shove, the UK government won’t actually dare to go down this route. Will the cold fury of May’s statement today change minds on that? Will EU leaders begin to think of the geopolitical implications of an acrimonious divorce? May is gambling that they will. But it is a hell of a big bet. If it shows no sign of paying off in the next fortnight or so, the pressure on her to change tack will really ramp up.