9 Jun 2017

Theresa May speech: would it have been much different if she’d won a majority?

The lectern in Downing Street has been wheeled out again. After telling The Queen that she could form a government, Theresa May gave an address in Downing Street, much of which could’ve been the words she had planned if she’d got her dreamt of giant majority.

Theresa May spoke of serving five years. She emphasised the need for security in dangerous times and recommitted to delivering Brexit. She didn’t engage with one of the central questions floating around the political world today: has the election result changed the complexion of Brexit?

I’ve spoken to Tory MPs who tried to amend the Article 50 measure as it went through the Commons and they think there is a real opportunity for them to pressurise Mrs May to drop opposition to the Single Market and reconsider staying in the Customs Union. Others talk about the Lords now having a free hand to frustrate what many there believe is her “hard Brexit.” Ask what the means are for that and people and you hear talk of “joint Parliamentary committees,” threatening to use the final vote at the end of the process.
As you can see, these are not well advanced plans but those who want something closer to a Norway type relationship with Europe sniff an opportunity and some of them think Theresa May staying in the job might suit their case, pressurising a wounded Prime Minister rather than risking a leadership election at the mercy of the Tory party members.

Theresa May was speaking after returning from the Palace. The PM had to tell the Queen she could form a government, which is why you’ve been hearing about an “understanding” that has been reached with the DUP to support a minority Tory government. Theresa May spoke of the two parties’ strong relationship and the DUP have actually been helping out the Tories on votes and engaged in close and regular contact since the 2015 election when David Cameron came back to Number 10 with a small majority (well, it seemed small then, it probably looks princely to Theresa May now).

It’s not clear whether the relationship will now become more public, delegations walking up Downing Street, or whether they’ll keep their bartering behind closed doors. There’s speculation on the airwaves today that the DUP might be up for some compromises on Brexit which could allow Theresa May to soften her approach. Actually, they’re red in tooth and claw on Brexit, though history shows there are sometimes pecuniary incentives worth exploring with the Unionist parties where difficulties need to be overcome.

As for the EU, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered a vaguely menacing statement on camera emphasising that the EU 27 have a team “desperately” wanting to get on with negotiations. Theresa May emphasised, in her statement, that she was committed to that timetable.

Tweets by @garygibbonc4