Scotland & the EU

UK PM’s latest Brexit speech completely debunked

Speaking today at Mansion House in the City of London, The UK PM has made what was billed as a major speech on the process of Brexit.  Clarity was much needed after she seemed to be surprised by the EU’s paper yesterday outlining what she had agreed, which hints that she did not understand the implications of the offer she had made to the EU on the Irish border. 

Mrs May outlined ‘five tests’ said to guide Britain’s approach to the continuing EU withdrawal negotiations.  The problem is they don’t really make sense, so here they are with the problems of each bullet pointed below each point.

The PM’s five tests include:

1. The agreement must respect the outcome of the referendum vote to ‘take control of our borders, laws and money’.

    • The outcome of the referendum (on a UK basis) was to leave the EU, there is no democratic requirement to leave the Customs Union or the Single Market.
    • The confusing situation with the UK Government not understanding the Northern Ireland (NI) border location shows that the UK government is arguably losing control of its borders. The PM herself stated this would happen two days prior to the EU referendum. 
    • Add to this the fact that borders checks under some no deal scenarios would mean hiring and training border control staff faster than most think is possible, and creating new customers software that might take years.   
    • All EU laws that impact on the UK will be written into UK without any change and so although the UK Government then has the powers to change them in future, those powers related to devolved assemblies and Parliaments can’t be changed without the devolved administrations consent.
    • Add to that the observation that, given the UK had a veto on EU rules and regulations, it is arguable it had more influence over EU law than the EU did over UK law.
    • Money – now this is a strange one as there was no EU control over the UK currency of monetary policy. Maybe she means the EU’s tougher laws on tax evasion that the UK doesn’t want to sign up to?

2. The agreement must endure, without the need to return to the negotiating table ‘because things have broken down’.

    • Staying in the EU was an enduring / sustainable proposition but maintaining membership of the Single Market and Customs Union would also be more enduring due to the fact that maintaining such memberships would lessen the expected economic damage.

3. It must protect jobs and security, with Britain and the EU continuing to pursue the ‘shared goals’ of growing their economies while keeping their people safe.

    • The UK Governments own analysis states that all Brexit options will be worse for the economy and lead to less jobs and more economic instability that remaining in the EU.
    • My own analysis of almost two years ago now – said the same thing and proves that all Brexit options will be more economically damaging to Scotland that to the rest of the UK.
    • Keeping people safe looks like the money comment just flung on the end to trigger an emotional reaction. She may be referencing the need for maintaining intelligence sharing but that’s a bit of a red herring as it happens with non EU members anyway.

4. It must be consistent with Britain remaining ‘a modern, open, outward-looking, tolerant, European democracy’ that stands by its international obligations.

    • Wait, what?  A modern democracy wouldn’t have the unelected House of Lords having a major say and the democratically elected devolved parliaments cut out of the process completely.
    • Modern independence as defined by the 27 EU states (and the Scottish independence movement) recognises the need for economic connectivity and political and social interdependency without giving up sovereignty. That’s what the UK has with the EU up until the point of Brexit when it will ironically be following an isolationist and very inward looking, old fashioned nationalistic agenda.
    • Tolerant – she must mean except for immigrants who run our care homes, pick our crops and keep the NHS open for business.
    • As for its international obligations – David Davis yesterday said that if the UK had to have a border with Northern Ireland then the UK would not pay the Brexit bill. That is to say it would ignore it’s legally committed to international obligations to the EU.

5. It must strengthen ‘our union of nations and our union of people’.

    • The Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament are rushing emergency powers through to ensure that the UK Government can’t override them and legislate on devolved matters during post Brexit trade negotiations and the NI border issue actually makes Irish reunification a plausible scenario. Not to mention the impact on Scotland economy being used to justify a second referendum in Scotland which would probably deliver a yes vote this time round.

However, the most contradictory statement the PM made though was that “The UK had ‘made clear our concerns about the first draft’ of the withdrawal agreement published by the European Commission ‘but no-one should be in any doubt about our commitment to the joint report we agreed in December’.

  • This doesn’t make sense as the concerns the UK has made itself clear about involve the positioning of the Irish border, and if they are committed to not having an Northern Irish border in the Irish Sea then they are going against what they agreed and then saying no one should doubt their commitment to what they agreed in December, which automatically would lead to the Northern Irish border in between the UK and NI not NI and Ireland.

You may also like An outraged Theresa May rejects her own EU withdrawal plan 

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About the author

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Founder and Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before becoming CEO of Business for Scotland Gordon ran a business strategy and social media, sales & marketing consultancy.

With a degree in business, marketing and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G).

Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Economics School. Gordon contributes articles to Business for Scotland, The National and Believe in Scotland.


  • Sorry Gordon, you should have said ‘Irish’ Sea.

    Other than that I am in complete agreement with you. I have a French business partner who operates out of Ireland and Northern Ireland and with me, now Scotland. He will take his shellfish product from all three countries for processing in France. The mind boggles at the complications if there are no frictionless borders. What a mess!

  • David Cameron had until October 2017 to hold the referendum yet I cannot recall an interviewer asking one of those remain MPs, who constantly complain about the poor quality of the referendum debate, how issues were not covered and no one made clear what Brexit meant, why they didn”t press for a long campaign similar to the Scottish independence referendum. The truth is, of course, that remain had a 15-20% lead in the polls and no pundit, bookmaker or pollster was giving leave any chance and the MPs were assuming that the electorate would do as they were told. Even when the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and N Ireland asked for the date to be put back so as not to clash with elections to the devolve parliaments there was no call from the Soubry”s and Grieve”s for the voters to be given more time to consider the issues. But now this group want to water down or reverse Brexit because the great unwashed did not understand the issues. order a custom essay

  • Great article but a bit confused about the discussion of the Irish border being in the North Sea. Have I missed a major geographical adjustment to the atlas ??

    • If Northern Ireland stays in the customs union in order to have no border between Itself and Ireland and the Uk leaves the customs union then there needs to be a border between the mainland Uk and Northern Ireland.

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