The front pages of the UK media on 18 January are so distinct from reality it’s almost painful. They perfectly sum up how the ruling elite keeps getting away with it.
From The Times to The Guardian, it was the same presentation of Theresa May as some sort of powerful negotiation magician:
Who is really about to be crushed? One of the major incentives for EU membership is that the negotiating power of one state becomes the power of all the member states combined. It prevents smaller Eastern European states, for example, from having to negotiate with China with only their single economies behind them.
After a volley of platitudes, May tried to turn reality on its head in her flagship Brexit speech:
for the EU, it would mean new barriers to trade with one of the biggest economies in the world
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Really, it is the UK who would have “new barriers to trade” with the second biggest economy in the world when we are outside of the Single Market. We are talking about the UK’s $2.86tn-a-year economy versus the $13.8tn of the remaining EU states.
What does Britain have to offer now?
Chancellor Phillip Hammond recently suggested what the “threat” actually amounts to. The UK will have to “regain competitiveness” by becoming a tax haven to woo corporations if the EU doesn’t grant us a decent deal post-Brexit. Speaking about “competitive tax rates”, May echoed Hammond in her Brexit speech on 17 January.
So May’s threat to the EU is actually a threat to the British taxpayer, who will end up paying for the losses in tax revenue (and lack of access to the single market) through further cuts to public services. Citing Britain’s “considerable trade deficit and the large budget deficit”, German Christian Democratic Union deputy Norbert Röttgen has called such posturing “threats of self-harm” and “an expression of British helplessness”.
But in the UK media, almost every national outlet painted the Prime Minister as a hero with a complete disregard for the British people:
Blogger Another Angry Voice had a much more apt title for May’s deal:
The bullet holes in May’s speech
Extraordinarily, May demands that the new trade deal with the EU must not impede any other international deals. But the problems extend far beyond May’s so-called threats to the EU. Her proposals on international trade simply do not add up.
Central to May’s plan is a trade deal with both China and the US. The Prime Minister boasts that President-elect Trump has said Britain is at the “front of the line”. But Trump has been consistently hostile towards China. On the same day as May gave her speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping targeted Trump at the World Economic Forum, saying:
no-one will emerge as a winner in a trade war
How will May reconcile these international relations with the two huge markets?
Don’t you mean weaken the union?
Domestically, May’s plan for post-Brexit Britain could even win the prize for the most distant from reality. One of her 12 steps is to “strengthen the Union”.
A drastically weaker union seems more likely.
Scottish Parliament has just voted – by a clear majority – for Scotland's place in the single market to be protected. pic.twitter.com/yQ6lujscZU
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) January 17, 2017
Not only did Scotland itself vote by 62% to remain in the EU, but the Scottish parliament just voted to protect the nation’s place in the Single Market. A second independence vote is looking increasingly likely.
Again, May’s speech sounds good – but a closer look exposes its main currents as a sham.
The media laps it all up
May carefully designed her speech to sound as good to the British public as possible. While ignoring the harsh reality of the situation, of course. And this would have all fallen flat if the media hadn’t cheered her on.
Front pages like the ones we saw today help to explain why the Prime Minister keeps polling so well. She is presented as a safe pair of hands, when she is really steering Britain towards an even more elaborate playground for the super-rich. At the expense of ordinary people.
This hard Tory Brexit is going to be a shitstorm indeed.
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