It’s Time to Focus on the ‘Softer’ Side of Brexit

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May-ism will soon come to define  Theresa May’s prime ministerial legacy.  Happily for the feminist lobby, PM May is more that a pair of quirky kitty heels. So far she has been decisive, clear and almost Churchill-like in working with the political ‘hand’ she has embraced.

Thus far, she has ‘played’  well to the British bull rink; and those armchair would-be government advisers who are not shy in offering her their unsolicited (but presumably welcomed) advice about how her government can maintain (some might say retain) Britain’s rightful place in the ‘free world’.

Of course, this makes sense  given that the  Britain’s EU-EXIT vote was the clearest signal yet of a British retreat to  national pride. Just as the PM’s preferred low-heeled pump is considered a sensible choice of footwear for those who would wish to avoid stiletto-induced back problems; it also seems sensible that Mrs. May should reinforce the current national ‘bravado’ in which all right-minded politicians feel obliged to participate. At least  in front of the cameras.

This current national preoccupation with describing a Britain absent the encumbrances of EU membership might well explain resurgent national narrative that reads like this:The world is Britain’s oyster’ we will again circumnavigate the he globe concluding new and improved trade agreements of our choosing, and at will.

This too is another sensible and strategic May-ism which may be nothing no more, perhaps, than a rallying cry for the troops who are acutely aware that like the Captain of the star ship Enterprise,  PM May is taking her country someplace where no other government has gone before.

Boasting longstanding membership in the the G8 the G20, the  OECD; and for the moment the EU , it is not without merit that Britain should liken its international trade persona to the ‘brightest jewel in a proverbial ‘Crown’ of multilateral trading partners. This language, though not commandeered by the PM as another pre-trade negotiation May-ism;  is not unknown to the British government. Indeed, Britain in centuries past, once ascribed such a title to both India and Barbados precisely because of the volume of trade generated by these former colonies.

For those of us sitting in the bleachers of post-Brexit British politics it seems that the fore-going is perhaps a useful starting  point in an amateur’s analysis of May’s most often repeated May-ism: Brexit Means Brexit.

If can return to kitty heels briefly,   hopefully without over-extending the ‘fancy footwear’ correlation to breaking point, I would suggest the following:

Just as kitty heels  allow for the natural glide of the feet when walking demurely across unknown territory (political or otherwise) to grasp the hand of a visiting foreign dignitary ;or for the delivery of a swift, almost imperceptible but lancing ‘shin-butt’ should someone utter a Trump-est remark within your earshot; PM May’s Hard Brexit narrative should emphasise May-isms’softer side.

The promotion of the stony exterior of  a hard Brexit may be the only politically expedient course of action for PM May, in the lead up to her triggering Article 50. That said however, a softer, less swashbuckling approach to multilateral diplomacy within the World Trade Organisation may now be required. This approach may be more useful given that WTO decisions are made by consensus;  and backed by dispute settlement protocols, with ‘teeth’, and not of the dithering kind that can be found elsewhere.

The multi-lateral side of Brexit means Brexit now demands a smoothing of the edges; and toning down of the ‘we can fly it alone’ matra,  in favour of a kind of Brexit diplomacy that emphasises the vulnerabilities of Britain outside of Europe; and the reality that Britain needs to be in a group to secure its economic and trading future.

Vulnerability is not a side that the relatively new PM  can readily display. Especially with some political vultures still in active ‘formation’ above. That aside it would seem to be correct to unveil a more nuanced approach for the non-EU audience if Britain is to reap early trade dividends that is already the unspoken ‘ litmus test’ on whether or not  Brexitreally means Brexit or a second referendum or early general elections.

Successful multi-party trade trade talks, as is the case with other kinds of multilateral conversations often have nothing to do with the subject matter particularly during the initial rounds. With the end of March 2017 no longer a distant target it’s perhaps time for Madame Prime Minister May to begin to flesh out for the rest of the world what the softer side of Brexit looks like.

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