The Corner

World

May, Fly

Charlie makes a strong (and, to me, persuasive) case for British Prime Minister  Theresa May to stand down — and sooner rather than later.

He also asks “what…is the case for her staying on.”

Good question.

The problem for the Conservatives is that no one obvious comes to mind to replace her. May only got the job in the first place because there was, in essence, no one else. Cameron had fled the scene, Boris Johnson had been stabbed in the back by Michael Gove (who stabbed himself in the front in the process), meaning that the only alternative to May was . . . Andrea Leadsom.

If you haven’t heard too much about that last name, don’t feel too badly about it.

The answer for the Tories is either a fresh face (and, for now, I have no idea who that might be) or a somewhat weathered one – Ken Clarke (and, trust me, I cannot believe that I am suggesting this).

There are a number of problems with Clarke ‘17, not least the fact that he is highly unlikely to want the job, but bear with me on this.

Corbyn is no spring chicken, meaning that Clarke’s age (he’s 76) would be less of an issue than would otherwise be the case. Yes, Clarke is on the Tory left, but he was a very effective Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister). Then there’s Europe. With the Article 50 clock ticking more loudly every day, hammering out a workable Brexit is the single most important task for any Conservative government which might now be formed. A variant of the ‘Norway option’ continues to be the best way of achieving that.

The tough and genial Clarke is a eurofundamentalist, if a more pragmatic one than his counterparts across the English Channel. They know that: And I suspect that they might (no more than that) contemplate cutting a deal with Clarke of a type that they would never offer the badly damaged May or, say, Boris Johnson, someone they despise.

And let me repeat this: No deal is a bad deal, a very bad deal.

If anyone can negotiate a Norwegian-style arrangement with the EU, it could be Clarke, but there’s a problem. Nixon went to China, but is Clarke prepared to go to Norway?

After all, he’s a lifelong believer in Brussels’ wretched ‘ever closer union,’ and:

Norway is not in the EU.

The ‘single market’ is not the EU.

The ‘single market’ is not the same as the EU’s Customs Union.

Norway has a ‘right of reservation’ that theoretically allows it (should it so choose) to opt out of quite a bit of that (reduced) part of EU legislation that applies to it.

And, yes, Norway has the power to put a brake (under certain circumstances) on immigration from the EU.

So we’ll have to see. 

Is this a long shot? You bet. Clarke is probably not interested. What’s more, the rest of the EU may well have decided that the moment for the Norwegian option has long passed, if indeed it ever existed.

But if the Tories do not start thinking afresh about the way they are handling Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn will be in 10 Downing Street within a very short time.

And that would be the worst deal of all. 

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