quarta-feira, 18 de janeiro de 2017
Theresa May's Brexit speech: what the national newspapers say
Theresa May's Brexit speech: what the national newspapers say
PM’s words cause unsurprising joy in pro-leave papers while pro-remain media question her interpretation of her mandate
The advantage of the prime minister’s speech being leaked in advance is obvious: two successive days of adoring front-page headlines for Theresa May.
As far as the Daily Mail is concerned, Margaret Thatcher has been reborn: “Steel of the new Iron Lady”. Other headlines on six successive pages reflect its ecstasy at her decision to quit the single market, renegotiate customs union membership and dispense with the European court of justice: “A great nation is reborn”; “Europe split over May’s vision – but even Tusk calls it ‘realistic’; “Thumbs up from bosses”.
An op-ed by Dominic Sandbrook calls the speech daring, decisive and momentous and compared May favourably to Thatcher. As for the editorial, it praises an “impressive” May for presenting a vision of Britain “as a fully independent, global power”.
It continues: “Mrs May left our partners in no doubt that if they fail to offer the right terms, she is ready to walk away from the table and out of the EU with no agreement at all …
“In a subtle yet undisguised threat, she reminded them gently that a trade war would jeopardise EU firms’ £500bn investments in Britain. It would also put at risk millions of European jobs that are dependent on exports to the UK worth £290bn a year.”
No, I agree, not really much of a surprise. The Brexit-campaigning Mail has been May’s greatest supporter from the moment she emerged as the woman most likely to succeed David Cameron.
As unsurprising is the joy evident from the coverage in the Sun (with a punning front page headline, “Brexodus”, on a mocked-up tablet of stone), the Daily Express (“Deal or no deal we will leave the EU”) and the Daily Telegraph (“May’s bold terms for Brexit”).
In its editorial, the Sun says May’s Brexit vision “is so close to ours we couldn’t have written it any better. It was a magnificent, historic speech – a game-changer for Britain and for Brussels”.
It calls her speech “hugely ambitious, optimistic and crafted to appeal to every level-headed person in Britain”. As for EU members “she was commendably steely in urging them to focus on the potential gains for both sides, not on ‘punishing’ Britain”.
But the Sun has “two reservations”. It is worried about possible drift during the transitional period between the day Britain leaves and new deals taking effect. And it is troubled by the fact that parliament will get a final vote.
Why? Because “it provides a focal point for two more grim years of divisive campaigning by diehard Remainers still hoping to turn back the clock”.
The Telegraph, which carries an op-ed by Boris Johnson heaping praise upon his leader, joins in the adulation. It was an “excellent speech” offering a “clear sense of direction; this was real leadership, of the sort we see all too rarely.
“It is no exaggeration to describe this speech as a defining moment in British politics, one that will one day be remembered in the same light as Lady Thatcher’s famous Bruges address, which launched the modern Eurosceptic movement.”
According to the paper, “we will remain a pro-immigration society but will choose who we want to move here … a masterclass in common sense and is exactly what Britain voted for last June”.
It is particularly pleased at the “steel behind her words: Britain can be a good friend to the EU, or a bad enemy. And the EU today needs all the friends it can get”.
And it concludes: “The prime minister is doing what Britain wants, and doing it boldly. She deserves to succeed.”
The Telegraph columnist Philip Johnston also praises the speech, arguing that it lived up to its advance billing of being “major” and “groundbreaking”.
Stephen Pollard, in the Express, sees it in similar terms, “as the most important single speech by any British politician in my lifetime”.
In an adjacent leader, the Express reminds readers that “this newspaper began its crusade to get Britain out of the EU more than six years ago”.
Now, “at last, we have a prime minister who … understands the importance of delivering a real Brexit”.
The caption to the Times’s front-page picture of May striding into Lancaster House informs its readers that she is wearing “a £1,190 Vivienne Westwood suit”. Is that relevant?
As for the speech, its assessment is more measured. Impressed by how she “pulled off the trick of sounding both conciliatory and menacing”, it sees it as clever, nuanced “and arguably a fine one”.
It believes that May will have silenced those who said she did not know what she was doing and that her remarks “were meant chiefly to reassure critics at home that after six months with no running commentary she has a plan”.
The Times notes how the “shrewd advance briefing” of key sections of her speech “meant that any anxiety in the financial markets had been factored into the price of sterling” before she spoke.
It concludes by referring to an unnamed City trader who had welcomed the speech as “less hawkish” than expected: “This is an accolade that would have been hard to imagine last summer. Mrs May has deftly moved the goalposts to give herself the option of the hardest of hard Brexits.”
Then there are those titles that backed remain and are now doubtful about the government’s interpretation of its mandate following the referendum vote.
The Guardian thinks the speech “doubly depressing” and “riddled with its own streak of global fantasy”. It was, says the paper, “a reminder that Britain’s exit from the EU puts livelihoods, values and alliances at risk”.
May’s approach was influenced by her “conviction that the people voted for Brexit to control EU migration” and that “the Conservative party’s anti-European MPs are politically stronger, and thus more of a destabilising threat to her premiership, than the party’s pro-Europeans”.
Moreover, it was also “designed in equal parts to pander to the xenophobic press, and to keep backbench Brexiteers firmly on side”.
So, says the Guardian, “as a political manoeuvre” it “was a huge success” and will have strengthened her authority both in her party and in the country.
As for her saying that no deal would be better than a bad deal, the paper believes it to be “a bluff” which “may backfire at the negotiating table”.
Rafael Behr, writing in the Guardian, contends that May’s speech “was meant to be a beacon illuminating Britain’s future outside the EU. But, coming days before Trump’s inauguration, it should be read also as an unwitting requiem for the global order that is passing away”.
The Independent’s leader is unequivocally hostile to May’s speech, seeing her message as “extremely unwelcome” by offering a “damaging and undemocratic” Brexit.
It continues: “The terms she is talking about were not promised by the leave campaign in the referendum.”
Although May has agreed to obtain the consent of parliament to the eventual terms of exit, “the option to remain within the EU will not be on the table. For parliament and people, that is unacceptable.”
“She should, of course, have pledged a referendum for the whole of the British people on such a momentous move … it is more certain than ever that she is leading the country and her party into a certainly disastrous economic future – and will ignore the popular will.”
The Daily Mirror, ever aware of its readership being more anti-EU than its own long-held EU enthusiasm, is cautious. It says May “must be held to account closely as she initiates a tricky exit that will determine our country’s prosperity for generations to come”.
It wonders whether controlling migration from the EU, “which many people [meaning its readers] demand”, could prove counterproductive.
“Everybody wants to approach the future positively,” says the Mirror, “and it is in all our interests that a good deal is reached with other nations.”
And finally, let me mention a couple of half-decent headline puns in two free titles: “Don’t call me May be” (Metro) and “It’s May way or the highway” (City AM).