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How Theresa May United the British People--Against Her

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Every leader dreams of uniting the people, but Theresa May is the only postwar British prime minister to have pulled it off. It has taken time, hard work, toughness of character, mastery of detail, skin thick as tortoiseshell, and a willingness to do or say anything. Nevertheless, Theresa May persisted. Today, the British people are about as united as they can be.

No one likes her Brexit deal with the E.U. On November 28, a telephone poll found that only 16 percent of respondents support the draft deal that May announced in late November. The other 84 percent presumably prefer the subjugation of a return to the E.U. or the economic disorder of leaving the E.U. without a deal or to continue looking skywards for assistance while mumbling, “I don’t know.”

Admittedly, the anti-deal consensus still has 16 percentage points to go. But that sort of unanimity is only obtainable under a dictatorship or banana republic. Which might be exactly what May’s Brexit deal would create: a Parliament without legal sovereignty and elections without meaning.

The draft withdrawal agreement for Britain’s March 2019 departure from the E.U. betrays the voters who approved the 2016 Brexit referendum and puts the lie to May’s own policy statements and electoral promises. As Christopher Caldwell wrote last week in these pages, the deal would cast Britain into an open-ended “transition period” that means “all the taxation of being in the E.U. with none of the representation” along with ingesting into British law whatever legal delicacies strike the E.U.’s fancy.

The deal also commits Britain to maintaining regulatory alignment and open borders between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the E.U. In effect, the deal threatens to sunder Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. The negotiators of the E.U., abetted by domestic grandstanding from Irish premier Leo Varadkar, have succeeded in extracting from Theresa May by trickery and threats what the IRA failed to obtain by murder.

Britain will not be able to escape its juridical limbo until the E.U. allows it. If Britain objects, it will have to appeal to the European Court of Justice, which is a Potemkin court for the furthering of E.U. policy.

The one question on which May does deliver is on freedom of movement. For the last two years, Remainers have accused Leavers of masking anti-immigrant sentiment with talk about sovereignty. May, a Remainer herself in 2016, seems to believe this. She reckons that if she gives the white plebs what........

© The Weekly Standard