Sunday 21 July 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'This has become one long photo-op for a prime minister who keeps turning up with nothing new'

Theresa May put on her angry face before meeting with Donald Tusk this week. Picture: Reuters
Theresa May put on her angry face before meeting with Donald Tusk this week. Picture: Reuters
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

It's true that a picture can paint a thousands words - but it can also be used to try to paint over a sad and painful reality.

A few years ago, a friend asked me if my life was really as exciting as all the photographs on my Facebook suggested.

The question gave pause for thought because, of course, I didn't spend all my time partying and holidaying. Like everyone else, most of my waking hours were spent sitting at a desk or attending the most monotonous events.

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But the version I subconsciously wanted the world to see was full of weekends away and interviews with household names. You'd be hard pressed to find any photos on my Facebook these days.

Theresa May is trying to live her life like a millennial determined to impress her backbench frenemies.

She doesn't need social media, instead the British prime minister has the Tory media.

To the outside world, it looked like Mrs May spent the past week fighting hard to deliver a Brexit deal that will satisfy the DUP and hardliners in her own party.

"When I return to Brussels I will be battling for Britain and Northern Ireland, I will be armed with a fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination to agree a pragmatic solution that delivers the Brexit the British people voted for," May wrote in last Sunday's 'Telegraph'.

On Monday and Tuesday, she toured Belfast where she got a tepid reception from people who remembered that not so long ago the prime minister promised them 'the backstop' in order to avoid a hard Border.

But that didn't deter her from making a speech full of contradictions and anaemic reassurances, including her "unshakeable" commitment to no hard Border.

After a day of old-fashioned wrangling in the House of Commons, Mrs May then hopped on a plane to the EU capital with a different agenda.

The 'soft and friendly' Theresa that went to Northern Ireland spent the night practising her angry face before meeting with 'meanboys' Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker.

She brought neither new ideas, nor a renewed determination, to agree a pragmatic solution.

Instead, she disposed of the usual niceties to blatantly grimace in photographs with Mr Juncker before scolding Mr Tusk for pondering what version of the afterlife Boris Johnson might discover. It's likely Mrs May would also like to see Johnson and Nigel Farage meet their match - but her trip to Brussels was focused on playing to their gallery.

The photos were beamed back home in jig time.

Mission accomplished and yet nothing was actually accomplished.

And finally came her dinner date in Dublin with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who has long stated that he can't directly negotiate with her on the backstop. To do so would detrimentally undermine the solidarity being offered to Ireland by the EU27.

But as Dublin city embarked on its weekend, Mrs May jetted into Baldonnel under the cover of darkness.

She is like that neighbour who drives everybody in the estate mad, knocking around all hours uninvited and without so much as a bottle of wine or a packet of Marietta biscuits to offer.

According to one source on the Irish side, they struggled to get clarity from Downing Street on exactly what they wanted publicised from last night's rendezvous.

In the end, one photographer was allowed in to provide proof to the media pack outside in the cold that she even arrived in Dublin.

And that sums up the 'week in Brexitland': It was all one big photo-op for a prime minister who is out of ideas.

Meanwhile, the Brexit clocks ticks louder and louder.

Irish Independent

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