May Begging Beggars Belief
After the UK Summit, Theresa May reminds us one of those actors in a slow-motion scene, turning slowly to the audience and helplessly screaming “No.” But, yes, unfortunately, the EU leaders continue to remain intractable, like old European aristocrats, who revel in their glorious possessions and are impossible to placate. Even though they have agreed to start the internal discussions on their approach to the second phase of the negotiations on trade with the UK, the impression is that they know they have the stronger hand and are playing their own version of “Deal or No deal.”
Dinners, Sinners and Gossip
Even worse, May has become the latest victim of the Brexit negotiations, this time, not because of Boris Johnson, but because of the leaked account of her private dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker. This is bound to worsen the situation between May and Juncker’s team in Brussels.
May’s former co-chief of staff accused Juncker’s chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, for leaking the details to a German newspaper. Selmayr denied the accusations and said that Brussels wasn’t “punitive” against the UK and that Juncker never said that May pleaded for help. Later, asked by the BBC, Juncker denied the claims and said that May would never have begged, since “that’s not the style of British prime ministers.”
Juncker, who had earlier this month promised reporters the “autopsy” report of his Brussels dinner with Theresa May last Monday, was indirectly quoted saying that May was “begging for help.” Allegedly, a tired and despairing May, with rings under her eyes “begged” Juncker to help her, since she was anxious about the lack of progress so far. The story was released today by Thomas Gutschker, the political editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), in an article which argued that Juncker said to colleagues that the woman dining with him last week, was not the Theresa May of “hard Brexit,” and at the “peak of her power,” but a broken May, “despondent and discouraged.” A woman tired “from the struggle within her own party. She has deep circles under her eyes. She looks like someone who does not sleep for nights on end. She rarely laughs, though clearly, she has to for the photographers. But it looks forced. Previously, May could literally pour out laughter — her whole body shaking. Now she has to use her utmost strength to avoid losing her composure.”
The exhausted-looking May who fears being undermined by friends and foes at home and abroad, is a fictionalised figure constructed by the media, perhaps to serve the Germans’ own sense of humour. For example, according to the Financial Times, Selmayr was blamed for the leak and he is considered “anti-British.” As Politico describes him, he is a person to be “admired, despised and feared.”
But the May we do know, is the one defended by Boris Johnson—especially when he isn’t plotting to overthrow her. In his own words, May has made a “pretty good offer,” and the “entire British cabinet is united around every dot, comma, syllable of the Florence speech.” Speaking at the annual conference of the Chatham House thinktank, the foreign secretary expressed his confidence about May’s strategy and urged the EU leaders to “get on with it.” He said: “grip it, get on with it and start thinking about the future.”
Downing Street didn’t discuss the rumours of the PM’s alleged “begging” during her private dinner with Juncker, but the commission denied that Juncker made any comments against the British PM. However, the commission didn’t deny the general tone of the German report regarding May’s weakness. While Boris Johnson would grasp the slightest opportunity to appear supportive of May, his vapid and cheerful performances can’t distract us from the realisation that May is struggling herself to “get on with it,” despite EU leaders’ reluctance to give in. May is in the unfortunate position to push through the Brexiteers’ manufactured Brexit dream, and no matter how hard she tries to disguise the gaps and inaccuracies of Johnson, Gove and Farage’s promises, she will find it difficult to rewrite a badly written script. For some Conservatives, Brexit was a well-marketed plan without any depth, that was merely used to exploit voters into believing populist propaganda, but for others, it was a made-up illusion that was something to believe in, despite how impossible it sounded.
Now, May is trying to accomplish an improbable fit, deliver the impossible that Brexiteers have sold to the “people,” who have been exploited by the so-called elites. What we do know, is that May is the best choice from the Conservative party, since, according to ITV’s Robert Preston, Merkel would regard “the prospect of Johnson becoming prime minister, and therefore her counterpart in Brexit talks, with the relish that most of us would feel if presented with a plate of steaming sick.” That’s reassuring.