Theresa May faces an impossible task, a task that all statesmen want to avoid for it is the highest difficulty. She has to reconcile a divided people to a new path, a path that offers doubtful rewards and uncertain chances of success as it leaves behind known risks and benefits.
She will introduce a new UK that will navigate life outside of the EU. The political landscape will be reshaped by this departure as laws and institutions must be changed to accommodate the exit. The exit’s effects are far-reaching yet barely understood and it is within this uncertainty she has to plot a course. In this task, she has to carry with her the people as well as the regime as it is now constituted even as it too will be shaped by the change. The relationships within the UK, especially the one with Scotland, will need to reconsidered.
In leading the people, parliament, and her party, she will have to weave a web of state that reconciles the various competing, conflicting, and complementary parties. The web has to understand the tensions within and across each strand. The vote to leave the EU has made the task extraordinarily difficult. She is caught between two camps. She has for enemies the parties who did well under the old EU conditions. Within the EU exit camp she will have lukewarm defenders who will either not believe her sincerity or worry about her ability to deliver the exit. The parties who favour exit have the vote on their side, however, they know that the laws, the desire for precedent and continuity favour Remain. The public and parliament are less likely to believe in the promises of EU exit until they see them. Throughout this process, especially within Parliament, members of the Remain campaign will fight a rear guard campaign almost like partisans against an occupying force. Her defenders within the Leave campaign cannot show any gains except for illusory promises and postures. Her burden is lifted to the extent that the ministers who have to negotiate the exit are seen as responsible. However, when they make outrageous claims such as EU immigrants will be sent back in a reverse surge, she becomes their hostage.
May has made others responsible for delivering the exit, but this will only protect her temporarily for she has to manage the vote’s economic, political, social consequences. The consequences have begun to divide society. The division reflect a society disillusioned and discouraged by the process. As she prepares for the next general election, she knows a failure to deliver the exit will be fatal for her and her party. More worryingly, a failure will reveal the democratic voice to be useless. If she cannot ensure that the consequences are not felt equally or equitably, then cannot overcome the systemic inequality that they reflect. In that moment, she will realize she cannot weave together a web of politics that will create a true common good.