“Dear Mrs May…”, an open letter from Catherine Bearder

Dear Mrs May,

You called an election last week so that British voters can, you claim, by electing a large Conservative parliamentary majority, give you the “strongest hand” possible in the Brexit negotiations. But I am afraid Mrs May you have already decided on the direction you are taking this country in and I think you already know that.

Today the leaders of the 27 EU countries will meet to finalise their negotiating guidelines, for what Guy Verhofstadt described to Liberal MEPs this week as probably the shortest Council meeting ever. Why? Because they are all are agreed on one thing, the UK cannot get a better deal outside the EU than the one it currently has inside.

It’s not that the EU countries want to punish Britain, (although being called the “mafia” by Mr Farage does get their tails up, but thankfully they know he doesn’t speak for the UK). It’s just that there are rules to being in a club. One of those rules is paying a membership fee of that club. When you say you want all the benefits of membership, whilst not being a member, paying the membership fee or abiding by the rules, it tends to make others in the club feel a bit peeved.

But campaign away in this election, Mrs May. Try to get your “improved mandate”, even though it will make no difference to your strength of argument – negotiators negotiate with governments, not the numbers of MP. Oh, and by the way, it’s probably not best that your opening gambit is to insult leaders, that’s an extraordinarily unhelpful way to get what you want.

I don’t doubt that throughout the negotiations you and your Tory Brexit ministers will claim you are being bullied by nasty Mrs Merkel et al as you rediscover again and again that unfettered access to our largest export market comes hand in hand with the free movement of labour and people. But rules are rules, Mrs May, and the EU will insist on compliance for the United Kingdom just as it does with everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many in this country who now know you are bluffing when you say this election will strengthen your hand in the EU. My party, the Liberal Democrats, are just 100,000 of them.

But on June 9th, when all the fun and games are over (and the polls predicted were probably accurate), you will have to negotiate the deal you promised and I suspect, Mrs May, you were bluffing all along.

Best wishes,

Catherine Bearder MEP

* Catherine Bearder is the Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East

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20 Comments

  • The reason it was a 1 minute meeting is because it was all stitched up in advance, as is their standard practice.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Apr '17 - 10:11pm

    Thanks, Catherine, all that needed saying, and you were the best person to say it. All this supposed new strength from a successful General Election will avail our Tory Government nothing in the negotiations, and the fantastic nature of its hopes will be exposed. As already one YouGov poll has found that Leavers are turning into Regretters in significant numbers, it may not be long before a national demand for a second referendum to overturn Brexit becomes compelling, and perhaps Mrs May is anticipating that and realising she needs her election now before her support drains away.

    I suppose she also needs a new mandate in order to increase taxes, not that ignoring another of the Tory 2015 Manifesto pledges would be beyond this untrustworthy and manipulative government. ‘Steady’ do they dare to call themselves? ‘Shifty’ would be a more accurate description, remembering the bloodbath that brought May to the Premiership by getting rid of Cameron and Osborne en route, and seeing her volte-face now on whether a June election can possibly be any good for the country.

  • Mick Taylor 30th Apr '17 - 1:58am

    Richard S. Do you live on another planet to me? Have you been listening when people who understand the EU a lot better than you have told you that the EU27 would stand together to protect the EU and that the UK would have a worse agreement outside the EU than in it? I think not. And have you bothered to read the many posts that have explained the sort of process that A50 requires, namely that the exit deal has to be sorted first before any new arrangement can be discussed? Again, you clearly haven’t. Are you one of those who believes the EU needs us more than we need them? I guess so. Otherwise how to you justify your comment that it’s a stick up. If you knew anything about how the council of ministers worked – and you clearly don’t – then you would understand that deals mean hours of patient negotiation to obtain a qualified majority or unanimity. In this case, it is hardly surprising that there was little time taken in reaching this decision, because the EU27 have spelled it all out before and were merely meeting formally to agree the tactics/policies they will negotiate with the UK on.
    The problem for leavers is that have never understood the EU and therefore a perpetually surprised that the EU operates democratically and effectively as a unit and that they want to stick up for the institution they are members of. The real problem for the UK is that government ministers don’t understand the EU they’re negotiating with either and therefore will fail totally to get a deal they can hand-on-heart recommend to the British people. But oh that’s the politics of fear – NOT

  • Mick Taylor 30th Apr '17 - 1:59am

    stick = stitch

  • We should also tell Theresa May that she is using the anti-EU feeling of those who voted leave, in order to try to get more freedom to do what she wants, without having to take any serious account of opposing arguments such as those of the Liberal Democrats. She hates being accountable to anyone. She has insisted (according to the Sun) on the party manifesto being hers without even compromise with her own ministers, let alone wanting to listen to Parliament and those people who voted Remain.
    Unfortunately, so many people like a strong person who is a little dictator; that is until they eventually realise the consequences, when it may be too late.

  • Richard S 29th Apr ’17 – 9:49pm……………The reason it was a 1 minute meeting is because it was all stitched up in advance, as is their standard practice…….

    As in all such ‘deals’ the hard work is done behind the scenes by ‘professional civil servants’ over a period of weeks/months…Do you really believe that Theresa May will turn up for a meeting with EU leaders with a ‘shopping list’ that will be decided upon at the table?
    We have Davis, Fox and Boris unable to even agree among themselves what the UK wants/will accept….May’s, “Brexit means Brexit” is as far as our politicians have got..

  • Richard Dean 30th Apr '17 - 2:39pm

    “Stitch up” is surely the wrong phrase, as is “behind the scenes”? Private discussions are the lifeblood of all politics everywhere, they’re not new and they’re confined to the EU. They represent a significant fraction of the work done by our own MPs in the UK.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Apr '17 - 3:26pm

    @ Richard S,
    It is we who have chosen to leave the group. Having done so, it is we who have chosen not to be party to decision making by the remaining members of the group.

    We had better get used to future EU decision making on matters that affect us whilst having no voice in the process.

  • Despite the differences in language choice, we seem to be all agreed that the conclusion was agreed in advance of the meeting and that’s standard practice.

    Your MEP attaches some significance to the fact that the particular “show” they put on this time was a “single minute meeting” rather than the “deep negotiations one” whereas all the commentators seem pretty clear that no negotiation takes place.

    Perhaps she is the one who doesn’t know how the EU works.

    @Jayne – Personally I still live on the continent so I have to live with the lack of transparency and democratic accountability even after 2019 – and I’d like to reform it. Remember when Lib Dems used to want to reform the EU and not just cheer-lead for it?

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st May '17 - 8:05am

    @ Richard S,

    I am not sure that many people remember a time when the Liberal Demorats wanted to reform the EU.

    They are more likely to remember sitting down in front of the television expecting Nick Clegg to whup Nigel Farage in an EU debate, only for their chin to hit the ground when he responded to a question as to what the EU would be like in 10 years time. For many it suggested a complacency and contentment with the status quo within the Liberal Democrats that they did not agree with.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st May '17 - 8:26am

    Jayne Mansfield, Tim Farron said in an interview with Andrew Marr yesterday, that he is “a bit of a Eurosceptic”. This was interesting, and made a refreshing change from the unquestioning adoration of the EU which has seemed to be the part’s position since the referendum result. I’m surprised Tim Farron’s remark has not been commented on more. I did feel that this interview seemed to suggest a subtle change of emphasis.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st May '17 - 8:28am

    I meant “the party’s position” not “part’s position”!

  • Bill le Breton 1st May '17 - 8:56am

    CJC, I sometimes fall asleep with the radio on and an earphone in, so when I work this morning I was not totally sure whether Tim’s Eurosceptic remark was real or a dream.

    Perhaps the Party’s GE team is beginning to see sense. Several months too late.

  • Richard Underhill 1st May '17 - 9:12am

    The European Parliament should meet in one place, having two centres is wasteful.

  • Andrew Tampion 1st May '17 - 9:46am

    Bill I hope you’re right and the Party is beginning to see sense.

  • Is an uncritical view of the EU sinful ?

  • Peter Watson 1st May '17 - 10:33am

    “Tim Farron said in an interview with Andrew Marr yesterday, that he is “a bit of a Eurosceptic””
    And there was me thinking he stepped down from the Lib Dem front bench in 2008 because he supported a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, believing it to be consistent with the 2005 manifesto policy for a referendum on an EU constitution, in defiance of the official party line which wanted an In/Out referendum on EU membership. That does not sound like a eurosceptic position.

    The “Eurosceptic” line looks like a cynical electioneering attempt to appear less like a starry-eyed EU “fanboi“, and if it does signal a change in the party’s strategy, I hope that the next steps are more subtle, e.g. promoting a “eurorealist” position that accepts a need for some EU reform (and even suggests what that reform should be).

  • Bill le Breton 1st May '17 - 11:29am

    Peter – that would be the Macron maneuver wouldn’t it !!!

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd May '17 - 8:25am

    @ Catherine Jane Crosland,
    I am sorry for the delay in responding, but it seems that Peter Watson had already done so, and I need to check the facts.

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