The public, she said, would choose either her “strong and stable leadership in the national interest”, or a “weak and unstable coalition led by Jeremy Corbyn”. The Prime Minister’s catchphrase subsequently became ripe for mockery following the Conservatives’ electoral car crash on 8 June, with many people still revelling in the weak and unstable nature of May’s minority government.
Instead of ending up with a cabinet of disciples dutifully following the PM’s meticulously planned road to Brexit, we now have open season – an uncontrollable group of ambitious politicians with varying views and incentives, free to take pot shots at each other in a bid to seize control of the Brexit battleground.
The situation has led to considerable unease in the City and throughout businesses across the UK, as executives wonder how Britain’s historic exit from the EU will unfold. Their understandable reaction has been to repeat calls for a substantial period of transition, the latest of which was made by the Federation of Small Businesses over the weekend.
On this front, there are signs of success. The PM was lobbied hard enough during last week’s business summit to ensure that a promised “period of implementation” made its way into a No10 statement following the meeting. Cabinet ministers, both in public and in background briefings, appear increasingly confident of reaching a consensus.
Divisions remain, of course, but even David Davis and Liam Fox now seem happy to sanction a transition of two to three years.
The nature of the transition may still prove a sticking point, with chancellor Philip Hammond keen to maintain close economic links, while Fox and Davis strive to break the fetters that prevent them from sealing post-Brexit trade deals.
But these inter-governmental arguments are here to stay, so we better get used to them. The UK’s Brexit strategy will not be determined simply by one person at the top – rather, it is emerging through rigorous, relentless debate and political consensus-building. And that’s no bad thing.