May finds lit­tle pub­lic in­ter­est in last-ditch pitch for Brexit deal

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BEN­JAMIN PLACKETT

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.

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