Theresa May is angering both Leavers and Remainers

Christian May
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The Conservative Party Conference 2016 - Day One
Theresa May needs to do more to help the City as Brexit talks continue (Source: Getty)

Theresa May’s approach to Brexit has proved immensely frustrating to those who found themselves on the losing side of the referendum debate.

This frustration, based at first on the idea that the government lacked any kind of plan, is turning into despair at the realisation that the PM does not intend to give any ground to MPs demanding a vote on the timing and nature of the UK’s departure from the EU. Ed Miliband has teamed up with Nick Clegg to lead a campaign calling for parliamentary approval of the government’s Brexit plans before Article 50 is triggered.

The former Labour leader claims that “the referendum was a mandate for Brexit but there is no mandate for a hard, destructive Brexit”. This is pure sophistry. The former deputy prime minister, meanwhile, considers it “absurd” that parliament won’t have an opportunity to stop the UK leaving the Single Market.

Read more: MPs should debate Brexit, not frustrate it

This newspaper maintains that parliament should certainly scrutinise the Brexit process (which will be long, complex and drawn-out) but that fighting to retain full membership of the Single Market risks being seen as nothing more than an attempt to subvert the outcome of the referendum. Whatever one’s thoughts on the outcome of that vote, the result was clear and should be respected. Britain voted to leave the EU.

While we may not be surprised by the behaviour of Miliband and Clegg, it is fascinating to consider the extent to which many high-profile Leave campaigners are also disappointed with May’s approach to Brexit. One such figure was heard to lament last week that May is “ruining Brexit” through a combination of careless, anti-immigration policy proposals and a casual disregard for the City and financial services.

Read more: What will Brexit mean for the City?

The PM may be bending over backwards to keep Nissan in Sunderland, but what about keeping investment banks in London? That may be a blunt comparison but there is growing unease in the City that the PM and her Brexit minister David Davis are not sufficiently interested in protecting and defending the UK’s financial services industry.

Using her formative months to attack corporate culture and high pay, while simultaneously indulging in UKIP-style rhetoric on immigration, only adds to the Square Mile’s sense of nervousness. Without a change of a tack, the PM may achieve the unusual feat of uniting pro-Remain and many pro-Leave advocates against her.

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