Theresa May, despite appearances, is in for a rough time. I believe the next few months will certainly give her more problems than she can comfortably handle. Her Tory government is more divided than she dare admit and her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is proving to be a loose cannon and an embarrassment to the very essence of diplomacy, at a time when her government needs all the goodwill it can engender.
On the other hand, she seems to be at odds with Philip Hammond, her Chancellor, whose common sense approach to Brexit is hardly palatable to the right-wing elements in her cabinet, and she seems determined to rein him in, no matter what. In the meantime, Nicola Sturgeon, who refuses to toe the Westminster line, will attempt to block Theresa May from triggering Brexit after being given permission by the Supreme Court to intervene. The Court announced last Friday that the Scottish Government will be allowed to take part in a controversial legal battle over Article 50, which formally begins the process of leaving the European Union.
The Welsh Government will also be allowed to intervene, along with a trade union backed by Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader. Ms Sturgeon, whose force of personality will prove to be a big stumbling block to Mrs May, wants the Scottish Parliament to be consulted before the British Prime Minister starts divorce procedures with the EU. Given that the majority of people in Scotland voted in favour of Remain, Ms Sturgeon has warned that Brexit could trigger off a second Independence Referendum.
In its application to intervene, the Scottish Government argued that triggering article 50 would lead to a ‘fundamental alteration of the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom.’ Ms Sturgeon, announcing the Scottish Government’s intention to intervene earlier this month, said: ‘Let me be clear. I respect the right of England and Wales to leave the European Union. This is not an attempt to veto that process. But the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland and the national Parliament of Scotland cannot be brushed aside as if they do not matter.’
The Supreme Court also gave permission to the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain to intervene in the court case. The Union wants MPs to block Brexit unless the Government can meet an extensive list of guarantees about workers’ rights. The participation of a union which supports Mr Corbyn in the case appears to contradict claims by the Labour leadership that the party will not seek to block Article 50. John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said last week: ‘Labour will not seek to block or delay it.’ It came as Jolyon Maugham, one of the QCs behind the legal action, said that Ms Sturgeon could seek a legal ruling that Article 50 can be reversed. Supreme Court Justices will also invite legal representatives from the Welsh Government and a group representing British expats to intervene in the court case, which begins on December 5.
Downing Street says it is confident it will win its appeal against the High Court decision, which ruled the Prime Minister could not use executive powers to trigger Article 50. Mr Maugham argues that the Scottish First Minister could ‘explode the cosy consensus that the 2-year process for leaving the EU cannot be undone once it has started, by seeking a reference to the Court of Justice of the EU.’
Mrs May’s confidence that she will overcome all these complexities, given the state she is now in, is tantamount to stretching optimism beyond the realm of reality. But being in an age where even the unworthy can succeed when the odds stashed against him or her make the ascendancy virtually impossible, anything can happen.