It's not the time for Tory leadership battle | The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2017 | gulf news

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Monday June 12, 2017 - 11:33:11 in Maqaallo by nur yare
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    It's not the time for Tory leadership battle | The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2017 | gulf news

    British voters do not want further uncertainty as the government starts Brexit negotiations.

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British voters do not want further uncertainty as the government starts Brexit negotiations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has done the right thing by moving swiftly to form a government. The loss of the Conservative majority in the Commons is a huge disappointment for all of us who saw this election as the chance to win a stronger mandate to handle Brexit, and called for it for that reason. But amid all the doubts that the election result has brought instead, it would only have multiplied the uncertainties if she had walked away from her job as Jeremy Corbyn demanded. The Conservatives are so close to a majority that no other party can form an alternative government.

And with the deep hostility of the Democratic Unionist Party to the current Labour leadership, there is a clear basis for a Conservative administration. No one can pretend, however, that the Conservative campaign was successful. An overwhelmingly strong position at the time of the local elections on May 4 was turned into serious losses by June 8. The awful truth is that no party has given up such an advantageous situation with such speed in the modern electoral history of our country. Very serious lessons will have to be learnt from that.

The Conservative campaign was strong on honesty and realism, but the next time the party enters a general election it will need to be just as strong on hope and vision for the future — and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. It is now up against a reinvigorated Labour Party that has managed to popularise a hard-Left agenda and is prepared to promise immediate benefit to millions of people, whether its commitments are affordable or not. That can only be defeated with a clear argument for the benefits of freedom, enterprise, diversity, low taxes and being a natural home for businesses and the millions of extra jobs these virtues have been creating. So the result calls for a searching and frank analysis of what went wrong in those five weeks. But it does not warrant any battle for the Conservative leadership. Voters do not want further months of uncertainty and upheaval. They want to see ministers getting on with the job, while acknowledging democracy and their constrained circumstances. And getting on with the job should mean starting the negotiations to leave the EU on schedule the week after next.

That is important because 10 weeks has already passed since Britain triggered the two-year process of talks under Article 50 of the EU Treaties. There are hundreds of difficult issues that have to be sorted out by the end of next year, if time is to be allowed for debates on an eventual deal. They are not simple issues — how customs posts will work, who can enter the country and with what rights, who can fish where, how air traffic is managed and scores of other similar matters. It’s therefore crucial to get started now, as the prime minister clearly intends.

But how should ministers handle the talks, now that the EU Commission sitting across from them will assume they are in a weaker position than they were?

First, they should make clear that the election does not mean Britain has become a soft touch. If the EU thinks that it can calculate Britain’s liabilities to it without allowing for our share of its assets, this Parliament won’t wear it any more than the last one. Indeed, Britain’s room for compromise on some issues will have become more limited.

Second, they will have to give intense attention at the outset to how to handle the Northern Ireland border with the Republic. The DUP are pro-Brexit but want a frictionless border. This was, in any case, a priority for both sides — now it is politically even more important. Third, and crucially, I hope the government will think about putting forward plans that could lead to a breakthrough in the negotiations in ways that command widespread support from people who voted for different parties on Thursday. Say, yes, we do insist on controlling our borders, and we will expel those who break our laws.

But if an EU citizen is offered a job here, then we will give them a permit to do that, because we are going to need them for years to come. Such a plan would fit naturally with a bold Free Trade Agreement. Taking the initiative in the talks in this and other ways would show the British government is up and running and able to set the agenda.

Combining boldness with toughness will be the best way to make progress with the EU and win support at home. When you’ve had a big setback you have to learn the lessons, but pick yourself up, get going and advance. That’s now the task as the Brexit talks begin.

— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2017




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