Theresa May and George Osborne may not be cabinet colleagues any longer after Britain voted for Brexit, but they were re-united last night by the Spectator as he had to give her an award for being politician of the year. The Prime Minister gently mocked the man famed for his “hard hat tours” by donning a hat of her own and a hi-visibility jacket as she accepted the award from him. “Oh come on we’re all builders now,” she quipped. She also mocked Boris Johnson after he compared his experience after the referendum to that of the Alasatian dog Lord Heseltine was said to have strangled: “Boris, the dog was put down… when its master decided it wasn’t needed any more”. She may have been especially keen to chide him after the risky joke he made earlier about the Government’s Brexit strategy, quipping that “we will make a titanic success of it”. “It sank!” attendees shouted back at him. It’s tempting to remember Alan Patridge on this, who pointed out that “people forget that on the Titanic’s maiden voyage there were over 1000 miles of uneventful, very pleasurable cruising before it hit the iceberg”.
Many issues remain that could be their own icebergs for Captain May on her journey to Brexit. Ireland’s prime minister Enda Kenny has warned Europe that it is in danger of “losing the plot” if it obsesses over punishing Britain in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Germany is one such country who has made clear it will not give Britain an easy ride, although economic advisors to Angela Merkel’s government have called for her to intervene to prevent Brexit from going ahead. “An exit of the United Kingdom from the EU would not only mean an economic loss, but above all a bigger political loss,” the Council of Economic Experts warned.
The Prime Minister also has to ensure her own civil servants remain on board, as the head of the civil service Sir Jeremy Heywood has signalled that his colleagues’ warnings about the impact of Brexit during the referendum were “factually correct and objective”. At the same time, legal attempts to stop Brexit continue to roll on, as the High Court is expected to make a judgement today on whether Mrs May has the power to trigger Article 50 without MPs having a vote. This decision is likely to go to the Supreme Court no matter what the result turns out to be. “The Government has a duty to engage the country and Parliament in a process which will determine the future of our economy and place in the world for decades,” writes Ed Miliband in today’s Telegraph.
Boris Johnson may well have had these obstacles in mind when he jokingly compared the Brexit strategy to the Titanic, but one thing is for sure: Mrs May will be determined to make a titanic success of Brexit in an entirely different way.