Below is a copy of an article which I originally wrote for the “Student Voices” website back in early July 2016, a few days before Theresa May was crowned Leader of the Conservative Party and the country. In the article I state that she may turn out to be a disappointment on Brexit due to her staunch support for the European Arrest Warrant (which she wants to retain after Brexit), her u-turn on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the fact that she both campaigned and voted to remain. I think the fact that the Government is now seeking to retain the European Arrest Warrant after Brexit, to secure an off-the-shelf transitional arrangement with the EU which would include a temporary customs union for up to two years after we officially leave the EU at midnight on 29th March 2019, the fact that some reports suggest that free movement may continue during the transitional period show and the fact that she lost her party’s parliamentary majority that I was right about Mrs May. In hindsight (due to Andrea Leadsom’s remarks about motherhood, her warning of the economic possible consequences of Brexit in 2013, her pledge to immediately invoke Article 50 and her unilateral guarantee of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, neglecting the rights of UK citizens living in the EU), which is a wonderful thing, I would have instead backed Liam Fox from the start as the best of a bad bunch due to his long-term support for a clean Brexit and his extensive and long-term Cabinet experience in various different positions. The ideal choice would have been David Davis but, unfortunately, he chose not to run. However, at the time of writing, it was a two-horse race between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom.
Why Theresa May isn’t all she’s cracked up to be
I am absolutely delighted that Andrea Leadsom has made it into the final two for the postal ballot of Conservative Party members along with Theresa May. It is great that we are guaranteed to have a second female Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister, all without Labour’s positive discrimination measures. Also, I firmly believed that after Michael Gove’s sudden attack on Boris Johnson and his campaign dirty attempt to encourage supporters of May to vote for Gove simply to prevent Leadsom reaching the final member’s ballot, Gove had a much lower chance of beating May. Even so I am not willing to support a man who openly declared in the headline of his 2003 Times column “I can’t fight my feelings any more: I love Tony”. However, I am deeply concerned about Theresa May’s rise in the ballots of MPs and in opinion polls of Conservative Party members. The reason for this is the naivety which surrounds her support. She said “You can judge me by my record” and that is exactly what I intend to do.
It is my firm belief that the next Prime Minister who will hopefully invoke Article 50, beginning the negotiations that will take us out of the EU, must have supported the leave campaign in the referendum. This view seems to be shared by the David Cameron, George Osborne and it is certainly shared by Nicky Morgan, Iain Duncan-Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg amongst others. If the next Prime Minister is a Remain supporter, they will agree with what they are doing and so may ignore the referendum result, hold a second referendum and will be less likely to get a good deal for the UK and may even try to take bring us back into the EU in the future.
May supported the Remain campaign in the referendum but rarely appeared on the campaign trail. This has led some to believe that she is in fact a “reluctant remainer” or a “Eurosceptic remainer”. I do not fall for this as if it were the case I cannot see why she would faintly wade into the debate – why not just back neither side and stay out of it? Secondly, on Wednesday 6th July May herself recently met with Sir Richard Branson, who wants a second EU referendum despite calling the idea of an EU referendum in the first place “ridiculous” in 2013. If she was fully committed to fulfilling the desire of the British electorate to take us out of the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, she would not have met with Sir Richard or afterwards she would have been clear to the media and public regarding the purpose of the meeting, what was discussed and the outcome. Thirdly, she has not set out a timetable for the leave process and has stated that she may not even activate Article 50 until next year. May has performed a clear u-turn on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) – in April of this year, she launched a stinging, and in my opinion very accurate, attack on the Court, stating “The ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights … My view is this: if we want to reform human rights laws in this country, it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court … [The ECHR has a] crazy interpretation of our human rights laws”. However in her leadership announcement speech on Thursday 30th June, just two months later, she pledged to keep the UK in the ECHR. This reminds me of another betrayal of hers on a similar European issue: the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). In November 2014 May promised MPs a vote on the EAW but at the very last minute she broke her promise and denied MPs the vote she had promised them as was brilliantly described by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP in the House of Commons.
Mr Rees-Mogg was not the only critic of May’s treacherous last-minute decision – MPs from the SNP, Labour and the Liberal Democrats also criticised her broken promise and the Speaker John Bercow described the series of events as a “sorry saga”, stating that “the House should not be put in this position” and that “A commitment is a commitment to be honoured rather than trying to slip things through some sort of artifice”. In October 2015 May attacked the record level of net immigration into the UK (the highest in our history), for which she was responsible, stating that such levels make it social cohesion impossible as it puts extra weight on public services and lowers the wages of those who are already low-paid and forces some of them into redundancy but she then backed remaining in the EU and thus ensuring through the freedom of movement policy, that we cannot control the numbers or types of people coming to the UK. She was responsible for immigration at the time and clearly broke her manifesto pledge to get net immigration down to the “tens of thousands”. In the same year, immigration from countries outside the EU, which we control, also rose. All of this evidence convinces me that she is not a reluctant or Eurosceptic remainer. During her time at the Home Office, 700 foreign criminals were released from prison without checks.
Why does all of this matter anyway, I hear some of you ask, as she would hardly risk disregarding the desire of the public to leave the EU, would she? My answer to that is she may well do. In Ireland, in October 2009 there was a second referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty after the electorate rejected it in the first referendum in June 2008 and there was no major uproar. If Parliament were to ignore the result of the referendum or to call a second referendum in the UK, there probably wouldn’t be an uproar in Parliament as 70% of MPs backed the Remain campaign. The longer Article 50 is left, the less likely it is to be triggered – Cameron promised numerous times before the referendum that if the UK voted to leave he would immediately invoke Article 50 and he would NOT resign. He has, however, purposely broken both of these promises to snooker the Leave camp as in that time Sir Richard Branson and 4 million others have called for a second EU referendum, Labour’s David Lammy MP has called for Parliament to ignore the referendum result, there have been pro-EU marches in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow (I notice such marches have not occurred in the rest of the UK), not to mention Sinn Féin’s call for a united and independent Ireland and Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second Scottish Independence referendum and her attempts to prevent the UK as a whole or just Scotland from actually leaving and finally the pound has fallen in value against the dollar to a 31-year low. A naïve and simplistic interpretation of these events could lead to a case, albeit a poor one, against the invoking of Article 50 or for a second EU referendum in which more Remain supporters would be bothered to turn out and in which those who previously voted leave may be persuaded into voting Remain due to short-term and mainly insignificant fluctuations in the markets. It is worth bearing in mind that the low value of the pound is very good for exporters as it lessens the price of our exports, increasing demand for them abroad and making the UK more competitive globally – this is why China constantly and purposely devalues its own currency. Also, just 6 days after the EU referendum result was announced, the FTSE 100 hit a 10-month high. It is also worth bearing in mind that the FTSE 100 had already been at the low level it was at in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote eight times in the last 12 months. However, the Remain camp in such a second referendum would conveniently and deliberately overlook and fail to mention these clear facts.
All of this leads me to the conclusion that the best choice for Prime Minister is Andrea Leadsom MP. She is, in my opinion, the best of a bad bunch of candidates – indeed I would have much preferred David Davis MP to become Prime Minister and I was devastated when he did not stand after raising my hopes by stating he could imagine circumstances in which he would stand, as I share almost all of his long-standing political policies. However, Leadsom is the only candidate, promising to immediately invoke Article 50, quashing calls for a second referendum and instilling certainty into the markets. Leadsom, unlike May, defied the party whip in October 2011 by voting for an EU referendum. She is also the only remaining candidate to consistently, passionately and enthusiastically make a strong and case for leaving the EU, especially in the BBC, ITV and Guardian debates, since the referendum campaign began. She knows much more about the EU than May as, from September 2011 to January 2014, she led the cross-party “Fresh Start” project, consisting of 100 MPs which thoroughly looked into the impact of the EU’s laws on the UK. This is compared to Ken Clarke’s assessment of May: “She doesn’t know much about foreign affairs”. Leadsom has 25 years of financial experience and she was Economic Secretary to the Treasury and so is well placed to stabilise the market.