The UK government is clearly disadvantaged in the EU negotiations. The BBC have reported that David Davis has said that the government has already had to make compromises and that the EU’s two leading countries – France and Germany – are significant players on the other side of the negotiating table.
The way things are going, a worse deal than the one the UK already has with the EU or no deal at all look like the most likely options. And it makes complete sense: the UK is much more reliant on the EU as the latter has a much bigger population of consumers and producers, as well as a larger economy. Why should the EU give the UK similar deal or a better deal compared to the existing arrangement? The political argument feeds into this as well: giving the UK a good deal would give leverage to anti-Brussels forces within the union. The EU has every right to be difficult, and the two-year negotiation period gives it a clear advantage.
To talk in blunt political terms, a worse deal than before is inevitable so the Conservatives will take the blame. With the current state of play, the numbers in the polls and the current electoral narrative, a Labour government looks set to be just around the corner.
It was recently suggested to me that perhaps the Conservatives should somehow engineer a vote of no confidence in themselves, which would likely involve pro-remain Tories voting down the government. Such a series of events could lead to an election and put Labour in the driving seat. Labour would ultimately get the blame for a bad deal and – in the eyes of Conservatives – wreck the economy with their taxation and spending plans.
In theory, it’s an interesting idea and there would be a chance of Labour taking the blame and the Conservatives returning to power soon after, but the public have longer memories than that. Ed Miliband suffered immensely in 2015 on his party’s economic record, which had been attacked since the 2008 crash. The Liberal Democrats are still failing to grow significantly in the polls due to their spell in coalition that began over seven years.
In reality, the public would not forget which party took the UK out of the EU. Furthermore, handing a new election to Labour would look like a ridiculous move on behalf on the prime minister who cannot even act to give her cabinet a much needed reboot. On top of that, politics has become incredibly unpredictable. A new election could end up handing Theresa May that majority she always wanted.
For the Conservatives, there is no way out of the mess they have got themselves into. They will either have to tell the British public that no deal is the only option, or they will have to try and present the inevitabley worse deal to the public. All Labour needs to do to succeed is let the Conservatives do what they do best – fight about Europe - and improve their own economic image.