Poor old Theresa May. Donald Trump’s Brexit comments have overshadowed the president’s long-awaited visit, but even after Trump departs for the golf course, her troubles won’t go away. Jacob Rees-Mogg offered an unwelcome reminder of that on the Today programme this morning, saying that he thought Trump had a point. Rees-Mogg said that all the president had done is spell out what was actually in the Brexit white paper. Take a look, he said, at this passage in the Brexit white paper:
For once, it seems, Trump has actually done his reading. In his comments to the Sun, Trump made it clear that Theresa May’s Brexit plan would mean the US “would be dealing with the European Union” instead of with the UK during trade talks. Given that the White Paper spells out exactly this – that if the UK wanted to make changes to regulation to open up a possible trade deal with another country, the government would need to ‘discuss this with the EU’ – it is hard to see how Trump is wrong.
So what does this mean for Theresa May’s future? Rees-Mogg suggested that the PM is of use only if she goes back to the Lancaster House Brexit script, gently hinting that it was time for a reboot of the Maybot:
‘Do you remember during the election campaign, she kept on saying ‘strong and stable’ and now she is saying ‘vote to take back control of our money, our laws and our borders’. We’re getting another one of these parroted phrases, and we need the parroted phrase to change. We need to get back to what she said at Lancaster House, which was a very good blueprint for leaving.’
Rees-Mogg went short of suggesting a change of leader was the answer, arguing that it was possible to disagree with May’s policy while still supporting her as leader. But how long can that awkward position hold? As Rees-Mogg said this morning, ‘the Prime Minister has changed her mind before’. It is clear that he – and others on the Tory backbenches – now expects her to do just that.