Insofar as there is a discernible strategy behind the Prime Minister’s continuing refusal to rule out a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, it seems to be aimed at (a) convincing opponents of Brexit that her deal is better than the alternative, and (b) convincing the EU27 that she’s really, really serious about this, in the hope that they will cave in and throw the Irish (north and south) under a bus to give her what her own party’s extremists want.
The first problem with this, to date, has been that few people believe that she is really mad enough to do it. Apart from a few swivel-eyed ideologues in her own party no-one seriously believes that no deal will be anything other than a disaster in the short to medium term, which means that both opponents of Brexit and the EU27 have had considerable difficulty in taking her seriously. It hasn’t helped that there is clearly no parliamentary majority for taking such a step – and probably no majority in her cabinet. Hiring a ferry company with no ships didn’t exactly help her credibility either.
I have a feeling, though, that perceptions might be changing. A government prepared to waste billions of pounds on preparations for something which they claim they’re trying to avoid is not a government in control of its senses. And when we learn that the military are stockpiling supplies on military bases at home and abroad and that the government is actively considering imposing martial law, it might be time to consider the possibility that she really is that mad, and it isn’t just a pretence.
That brings us, though, to the second problem with her ‘strategy’. Supposing, just for a moment, that she succeeds in convincing everyone that she is mad enough to do it, why exactly would that make the EU27 decide to get rid of the backstop? When dealing with someone prepared to renege on the UK’s treaty obligations, unilaterally break any agreement made, and lead her country into complete and utter chaos, surely the most rational response is not ‘let’s just give her what she wants’, but ‘there’s no point whatsoever in negotiating with someone like that’?