Theresa May has described the forthcoming general election as critical for the UK and the Conservative manifesto as one that will see the UK through Brexit and beyond. She claims the manifesto to be a plan for “a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain”, writes Catherine Feore.
It is clear from the intro that there is one issue at stake in this election – Brexit: “Brexit will define us: our place in the world, our economic security and our future prosperity” – never were truer words spoken.
The manifesto outlines five main challenges, one is ‘Brexit and a changing world’, as the text unwittingly makes the case for remaining in the EU: “As there is increasingly little distinction between domestic and international affairs in matters of migration, national security and the economy, Britain must stay and strong and united – and take a lead in the world to defend our interests.”
May sticks to her guns in arguing that no deal is better than a bad deal. It is clear that this is not true and – as admitted by Brexit Minister David Davis MP – has not been costed. Work carried out before the referendum by the Bank of England, Confederation of British Industry, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and others would suggest otherwise.
The manifesto reiterates the UK’s intent to leave both the single market and customs union and pursue a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.
Back in the days when Theresa May was on the ‘Remain’ side of the argument, she said: “My judgement, as Home Secretary, is that remaining a member of the European Union means we will be more secure from crime and terrorism.” May still wants to achieve security co-operation with the EU and it is probably an idea that the EU will be open to in the forthcoming negotiations.
Economy and trade
The manifesto acknowledges – as International Trade Minister Liam Fox was also forced to concede – that the UK will adopt the schedules (on tariffs and quotas on goods) that the EU currently holds with the WTO. The UK also seeks to replicate the many existing EU free-trade agreements the UK is already party to through the EU.
So, the claim that the UK has chosen to strike new trade deals across the world and become “a champion of free trade” is disingenuous. In other words, Theresa May is committed to trying to achieve what the UK has already achieved through its EU membership – an achievement that it is about to throw away.