3 times Theresa May seemed to make the SNP's argument for them

The Prime Minister said access to the single market is not a "binary issue". 


Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

The decision by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to propose a second Scottish independence referendum has forced her UK counterpart into an unusual position - defending and turning her back on unionism all at once.

Not so long ago, it was possible for Scottish unionists to take the coherent highground. They were in favour of economic unions in the UK, and the EU. But now, with Theresa May steering Britain towards a hard Brexit, she is in something of a rhetorical gymnastics routine. 

Here are some of the Mayisms in action:

1. Single markets are both very important and not at all 

“It is wrong to think about the issue of in the single market as just a single binary issue, either you’re in it or you have no access to it.”

Theresa May on why we shouldn’t be so worried about leaving the EU single market.

“We should never be shy of making that positive case for the Union… One of the driving forces behind the Union’s creation was the remorseless logic that greater economic strength and security come from being united.”

Theresa May on why Scots should be very worried about the SNP trying to “wrench Scotland out of its biggest market” .

2. Voting on non-economic issues is both noble and completely daft

“The British people voted for change… And they did so with their eyes open: accepting the road ahead will be uncertain at times.”

Theresa May’s speech in which she announces the government will be leaving the single market.

“I think we should reaffirm the importance of the UK to Scotland and Scotland’s economy.”

Theresa May on Scotland, where, of course, economics should be the overriding factor in an independence referendum.

3. Borders are both hard and frictionless 

"An international border would be created where one does not currently exist. This would have implications for people travelling to visit family, go on holiday or do business, and for our economies more generally.”

Theresa May in 2014, on the implications of Scottish independence.

"I believe, and this is what we are working on, that we need to find a solution which enables us to have as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland so that we can continue to see the trade, the everyday movements, that we have seen up to now."

Theresa May speaking in January 2017.

Julia Rampen is the digital night editor at the Liverpool Echo, and the former digital news editor of the New Statesman. She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.