Brexit ‘Red Lines’ Became a Trap for Theresa May – The New York Times

It was at this late stage, as the prospect of getting a deal through Parliament dwindled, that Mrs. May courted Labour votes by considering a softer Brexit.

“It was too late by the time she did it,” said Ayesha Hazarika, who was an adviser to the former Labour leader Ed Miliband. “If you’re going to compromise, it’s best to do it early on, when you have good will. Toward the end it was more like she was trying to save herself. Everyone could see that her power was ebbing away.”

She also made it clear, to her party and to the country, that she was not ready to guide Britain into a no-deal exit.

This was the result of a set of briefings presented to her around six months ago by the cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, who laid out the political and economic consequences — including to the Conservative Party — of a sudden exit.

“Since then, everything has been about excluding no-deal,” Mr. Wilkins said. “She is desperate to avoid it now. For the sake of the country, she now thinks it is the wrong thing to do.”

But as Mrs. May struggled to pass her deal, opinion among Conservative activists had been quietly shifting, from seeing a no-deal exit as a negotiating tactic to seeing it as a preferred outcome, the purest expression of the 2016 mandate.

Boris Johnson, favored by many to succeed Mrs. May, declared in January that a no-deal exit “is closest to what people actually voted for.” Nigel Farage, at the helm of the surging Brexit Party, rolled out the slogan “No deal, no problem.”


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