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Warning for Theresa May as she tries to sell ‘bold’ Brexit offer to senior ministers | Politics News



Theresa May is trying to sell her “bold” new Brexit offer to senior ministers as she prepares a fourth attempt at winning approval for her EU withdrawal deal.

Cabinet ministers met in Downing Street on Tuesday morning to consider the prime minister’s fresh package, which she will present to MPs in draft legislation next month.

Mrs May has already failed three times to win the backing of the House of Commons for her Brexit agreement, while cross-party talks with Labour on a compromise deal broke down last week.

Race to succeed Theresa May kicks off with split over no-deal Brexit

It has been suggested the prime minister could revive elements of those discussions with Labour when she introduces the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to MPs on the week beginning 3 June.

Mrs May might hope pledges on workers’ rights, the environment, and a vote for MPs on the next stage of Brexit negotiations – on the future UK-EU relationship – might win over opposition MPs.

But the prime minister was sent a warning by a leading member of her cabinet to steer away from moving further on customs arrangements in a bid to secure the support of Labour MPs.

It had been speculated Mrs May was willing to offer Labour a customs union with the EU until the next general election during cross-party talks.

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom stressed the WAB must “deliver Brexit” as she failed to confirm she would definitely vote in favour of the legislation.

Asked if she would be prepared to back the WAB at its second reading next month, Ms Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I will back something that remains Brexit.”

She added: “I have been very clear for years that leaving the EU means leaving the single market, leaving the customs union, taking back control of our money, borders and laws.

“It means ending free movement, it means leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.”

Ms Leadsom, who stood against Mrs May in 2016, is “preparing” to run for the Tory leadership again when the prime minister departs.

Andrea Leadsom
Andrea Leadsom said a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is still the default

Asked whether she could embrace a no-deal Brexit as part of her leadership pitch to Conservative MPs, she said: “I continue to support the prime minister to get her Withdrawal Agreement Bill through.

“It is leaving the EU and so long as it continues to be leaving the EU I continue to support it.

“What I do think is that for any negotiation to succeed, you have to be prepared to walk away.

“And, in addition, the default position – the legal default position – is that on 31 October the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

“I would like us to have a deal, I think it’s very important that we do.

“But in the event that we get to the end of October and it’s not possible to get a deal, I think leaving the EU is the most important thing of all – delivering on the will of the people.

“As a democrat, that is what we have to do.”

Mrs May is facing a further headache in succeeding at the fourth attempt to get her Brexit deal approved as Tory Brexiteers suggested they could once again vote against her agreement, despite having backed it at the third Commons vote in March.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chair of the European Research Group (ERG of Conservative eurosceptics, claimed the “dynamic is very different” than before Easter, when he eventually backed the prime minister’s deal.

He told the ConservativeHome website: “The reason for voting for it on the third go was we would leave broadly on time. That has been lost.

“Mrs May’s deal is a very bad deal, let’s make no bones about that.

“So, as we’ve already delayed, it’s hard to see any point in having a bill which fails to avoid the European elections, fails to get us out on time, fails to get the process going in the way that might have worked with a new leader coming in – because Mrs May said, if it went through, she would go.

“It’s rather changed from being the start of a process that a new leader could potentially run with, to the prime minister’s position being such that this is then a weight round the neck of a new leader who would be saddled with this piece of legislation regardless.”

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