[W]hen Theresa May asks for more time to negotiate with the European Union over Brexit, we would be wise to be sceptical. Not because Britain doesn’t need more time. It does. Hopelessly out of its depth, the country is neither ready to make a deal nor to crash out without one. As more than 40 former ambassadors argued in a joint statement this week: “We should not leave the EU when we have no clarity about our final destination. Instead we must use the mechanisms at our disposal, above all we must seek to extend the article 50 negotiating period.”
We should be sceptical because, while the country may need more time, we should not entrust it to May. We have seen how the prime minister squanders it: insisting on things that cannot happen, rejecting things that must happen, habitually failing to read whatever room she’s in while sending ministers to negotiate who haven’t read whatever documents were necessary. She has played a poor hand badly. Indeed, we are in this position in no small part precisely because she has been so cavalier with time. She has asked for two weeks so she can continue the almighty unicorn hunt in Brussels for a form of words over the backstop that will unite her party around a deal it doesn’t want, regardless of where that futile effort leaves the rest of us.
It is impossible to know if she honestly believes this is possible. May has a habit of sticking to the script religiously, repeating her lines mechanically, only to commit apostasy, insist on the opposite, claim “nothing has changed” and defy anyone to point it out. In that sense truth, to her, is time-sensitive. She sincerely believes whatever she is saying at any given moment, even when it directly contradicts what she said the moment before. [Continue reading…]