May's Speech: All aboard the 'Hard Brexit' train
Theresa May campaigned for Remain, remember? Her opening speech to conference yesterday may have thrown you off track, such was the vigour and enthusiasm she displayed for Brexit. Some Remain voting Tories may have raised an eyebrow at her assertion that Britain would be an independent and sovereign nation again, somewhat surprised that the UK isn't.
The truth is the Prime Minister was always lukewarm in her support whilst many of her colleagues, advisors and allies were out and out Brexiteers. Listening to her speech yesterday one got the feeling she was on comfortable territory and was confident that the government would shortly have its initial negotiating strategy outlined. Even in her short period in office, May has not displayed a preference for shooting from the hip and asking questions later when it comes to policy. So when she announced that Article 50 would be invoked by no later than March 2017, it's fair to assume that the government is well down the track in understanding what exactly Brexit means. A reluctance to spell it out too publicly should not be taken as the government having no clue.
It was an upbeat speech which avoided some of the pitfalls which may lay in Britain's way - but isn't that the Prime Minister's priority anyway? To show Britain that there is a successful way forward? May has plenty of time ahead to deal with the devil in the detail and there is nobody who thinks it will be all plain sailing, least of all the Prime Minister. But for now, she rallied the troops and won their loyalty in return. Of the Remainers, the suspicion is there will be little in the way of rebellion. In reality, few of the Remain MPs were euro-zealots, so expect May to stamp her authority on what will be a fairly 'Hard Brexit'.