Theresa May knows that triggering Article 50 will be a massive act of social and economic self-harm.
May didn't campaign much during the EU referendum debate because she knew that hanging onto one of the big offices of state, keeping her head down and biding her time was the best strategy for becoming Prime Minister. However on the rare occasions she did bother to campaign she was absolutely clear about how harmful quitting the EU would be.
Here's what she told a secret meeting of Goldman Sachs bankers just weeks before the EU referendum:
"I think the economic arguments are clear. I think being part of a 500-million population trading bloc is significant for us. I think, as I was saying to you a little earlier, that one of the issues is that a lot of people will invest here in the UK because it is the UK in Europe ... If we were not in Europe, I think there would be firms and companies who would be looking to say, do they need to develop a mainland Europe presence rather than a UK presence? So I think there are definite benefits for us in economic terms."And here are a few extracts from her speech to parliament in April 2016:
"Remaining a member of the European Union means we will be more secure from crime and terrorism"
"If Brexit isn’t fatal to the European Union, we might find that it is fatal to the Union with Scotland ... I do not want the people of Scotland to think that English Eurosceptics put their dislike of Brussels ahead of our bond with Edinburgh and Glasgow."
"If we do vote to leave the European Union ... we risk going backwards when it comes to international trade."
"The reality is that we do not know on what terms we would win access to the single market. We do know that in a negotiation we would need to make concessions in order to access it, and those concessions could well be about accepting EU regulations, over which we would have no say, making financial contributions, just as we do now, accepting free movement rules, just as we do now, or quite possibly all three combined. It is not clear why other EU member states would give Britain a better deal than they themselves enjoy."
"With no agreement, we know that WTO rules would oblige the EU to charge ten per cent tariffs on UK car exports, in line with the tariffs they impose on Japan and the United States. They would be required to do the same for all other goods upon which they impose tariffs. Not all of these tariffs are as high as ten per cent, but some are considerably higher."Even though Theresa May didn't bother to campaign very hard at all, the few things she did bother to say indicated that she thought that quitting the EU would be an act of social and economic self-harm.
This brings us to the question of why she's doing it if she knows it's such a bad idea. In my view the answer is the same as to the question of why she didn't bother to campaign properly during the referendum debate: She's putting her own self-interest above what she knows is best for the nation.
If she cared more about the best interests of the nation instead of her own political self-interest she would have campaigned against Brexit with everything she had instead of taking a back seat and waiting for the opportunity to become Prime Minister.
If she cared about the best interests of the nation instead of hanging onto political power, she'd make sure that the British people had a say on whether they accept whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are, but she's determined to use her position of power to decide the future of the UK for herself. She wants to act as an autocrat and choose between a hard Brexit (without full access to the Single Market) or a catastrophic "no deal" nuclear Brexit, and give neither the British people nor parliament a proper say on what she decides.
One of the main reasons she feels comfortable committing this act of national self-harm is that she knows that she's insulated from the economic consequences. She will always have her parliamentary pension to fall back on, and no doubt she'll follow other former Prime Ministers like Tony Blair and David Cameron into cushy corporate directorships and onto the lucrative public speaking circuit. She knows that the people who will suffer the consequences of her actions will be the ordinary plebs who work in jobs like manufacturing or live in EU dependent areas like Cornwall or the north east of England.
Theresa May doesn't care about the best interests of the nation; she doesn't care about giving the public any kind of democratic say on whether they agree with the Brexit terms she comes up with; and she doesn't care that it will be other people who suffer the appalling consequences of her actions.
All Theresa May cares about is her own self-interest and hanging on to the position of power that she cunningly worked herself into, and that's why she's triggering Article 50 even though she knows it will go down as one of the most notorious acts of social and economic self-harm in the history of the United Kingdom.
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