This week, the Government has tried to move on both domestic and EU fronts. But it faces an uphill struggle with both. Today, after finally thrashing out a unified approach to Brexit from a divided Cabinet, Theresa May must ready herself for a fight with the EU who have pre-emptively rejected her proposals, which include the UK selecting which EU rules to maintain and which to diverge from. It seems unlikely the EU will agree to something that effectively ends the single market.
Meanwhile, May also announced a much-heralded review into university education, after admitting that the current system “is not working for the individual or the country”. Tuition fees are a headline issue for young people, and with this demographic being heavily mobilised around Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, an attempt to curry favour with younger voters makes political sense for the embattled PM. Unfortunately, raising this issue only emphasises the divergence between Labour and the Conservatives. The eagerness of Labour to radically change post-secondary education makes this Tory review look tepid.
Theresa May’s move on education is also beset with difficulty. Corbyn is setting the agenda, not May. The Conservatives are unable or unwilling to match Labour’s promise to abolish tuition fees, and while cutting student loan interest rates will likely be popular, it may not convince anybody to vote Tory who doesn’t already. May is embattled from all sides – assailed by the EU, Labour, and most of her own party. Yet given the defining inactivity of this Government, at least they have started to show signs of life in trying to set an agenda.