The most memorable moment of Theresa May’s New Year TV interview was when Donald Trump’s quote about grabbing women by the pussy was read out to her. A clearly uncomfortable May replied that it was unacceptable language. Before quickly adding — in an attempt to avoid angering the incoming President—that Trump himself had said that his language was unacceptable.
One of the reasons that it was the most memorable moment was that May stuck to her usual script on both Brexit and domestic policy. She again made clear that control of immigration is paramount for her in the negotiations. But despite repeated attempts from Sky’s new political presenter Sophy Ridge, May wouldn’t confirm what this logically implies—that Britain is leaving the single market. However, May’s repeated references to a trade deal between Britain and the EU shows that the government isn’t simply thinking in terms of staying in the single market.
On the NHS, May dismissed the idea that there is some kind of ‘humanitarian crisis’ going on right now. Her critics have blundered by using such hyperbolic language which will, rightly, sound over the top to most people. Interestingly, May was clear that she doesn’t think that simply putting more money in is the answer on mental health, claiming that dealing with the societal stigma about it is more important.
May likes to talk about 2017 as the year in which the government will start delivering on the change that the voters want. But one suspects that May’s desire to keep her negotiating options open, as well as her caution and the nature of the EU negotiation will together mean that even by the end of this year we still won’t have a definitive answer to the question of what Brexit means.