May finds little public interest in last-ditch pitch for Brexit deal
LONDON | There are no stadiums full of placard-waving supporters, no giant street rallies for British Prime Minister Theresa May these days as she makes a last-ditch effort to sell her Brexit deal to guide her country’s departure from the European Union.
Instead, the beleaguered leader has to make do with a lackluster welcome and the prospect that her country will crash out of the EU without a map for the way forward.
Case in point: a leather factory near Glasgow last week, where workers largely carried on with their duties in the background as Mrs. May conducted interviews on camera. The workers were more interested in finishing their shifts than listening to the prime minister sell her vision of how the country will navigate its momentous divorce from the EU in a little more than three months.
Facing daunting odds in Parliament, the Conservative prime minister hit the road on a two-day trip through the Celtic countries of the United Kingdom, starting at a winter fair in Wales, followed by a university in Northern Ireland and finishing at a factory in Scotland. But analysts say the tour only underscored the political problem of her compromise deal: The many warring sides of the Brexit battle finally found common ground in their dislike for her handiwork.
On the hustings and in Parliament, Mrs. May’s strategy to date has been to brazen it out, projecting an air of confidence in the face of widespread doubts. She was at it again this week, parrying opposition complaints in Parliament and refusing even to speculate on her own future should her Brexit deal go down to defeat.
“I’m focusing on … getting that vote and getting the vote over the line,” she told members of Parliament.
But as the House of Commons last Wednesday conducted the second of five full days of debate on her Brexit plan, political prognosticators and punters say the odds are strongly against Mrs. May, with much of the commentary focused on what comes next when — not if — her plan is voted down.
Parliament isn’t making her job any easier in the run-up to the vote. In a U.K. parliamentary voting first, a majority of members said that the government is in contempt of Parliament for refusing to publish the full legal advice from the country’s top law officer about Brexit.
The House of Commons voted 311-293 in favor of a motion by opposition parties, The Associated Press reported, and the government quickly said it would now publish the entire analysis.
Mrs. May hasn’t eased up on her sales pitch, even though forecasters say she is far short of the majority she needs in a parliamentary showdown set for Dec. 11.
Despite the government’s own forecasts, the prime minister told the Scottish factory workers that her deal would be a boon for the economy. “It’s a deal that is good for Scottish employers and will protect jobs,” she said.
But many in the crowd were not buying what she was selling.
“We’re in a bad place. The economic forecasts suggest we’re not going to be better off with this Brexit deal or any other,” said Thomas Hills, 29, a chemical engineer from North Yorkshire.
If Mrs. May’s proposed divorce deal with the EU is approved, “a lot of people will be left feeling angry,” said Tim Oliver, an analyst at the London School of Economics and Political Science.