Theresa May attacked unelected peers for trying to block Brexit
Speaking ahead of this week’s crucial round of voting on the EU Withdrawal Bill, she took aim at the Lords who have tried to sabotage it with a series of unhelpful amendments.
MPs are voting on the amendments this week and Remainers hope a Government defeat could help them overturn the referendum result. But emboldened by new polling which puts the Tories seven points ahead of Labour, Mrs May confounded her critics by issuing one of her strongest statements yet on Brexit.
Speaking at the G7 conference in Canada, she said: “Let’s remember what the Withdrawal Bill is for. It’s about delivering a statute book that is ready for Brexit day.
“Of course, the Lords has a revising role to play but some of the amendments that were passed and the comments that were made went far beyond that. You had peers talking about stopping Brexit or trying to tie the Government’s hands in the negotiations.
Theresa May confers with world leaders at the G7 summit in Canada
We will not accept anything that prevents us taking back control of our laws and borders
“This Government is delivering on the decision made by the country in the referendum to leave the EU and we will not accept anything that prevents us from taking back control of our money, laws and borders.”
The salvo came as a poll put the Conservatives on 44 per cent compared with Labour on 37 per cent.
Number 10 insiders admitted they were “pleasantly surprised” by the party’s lead, which has been propelled by working class voters increasingly turning their back on Left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist policies.
It will not only increase pressure on Labour ahead of Tuesday and Wednesday’s crunch votes but also on Mrs May’s critics.
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She is due to address the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs tomorrow night amid growing disquiet over her leadership.
Even if the Bill goes through unchanged, Brexiteers are planning to step up their campaign for the “cleanest” Brexit possible amid fears the civil service is trying to keep the UK in the single market and customs union indefinitely.
There have even been suggestions she could face a leadership challenge as soon as Thursday, amid rumours of a new Brexiteer leadership pact between Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
The pair fell out when Mr Gove made the shock announcement he was challenging Mr Johnson as leader in 2015, having previously backed the former London mayor.
Brexit Secretary David Davis was reported last week to be on the brink of resigning during a dispute with Mrs May over the wording of the Government’s proposed “backstop” solution to maintaining an open Irish border.
And Mr Johnson openly criticised her handling of Brexit in leaked audio recordings.
Asked whether she expected an apology from him for undermining her position, she said: “The Foreign Secretary has strong views on Brexit but so do I. That’s why I’m getting on with delivering Brexit.”
Theresa May could face a leadership challenge as soon as Thursday
Following a week of turmoil in Downing Street, with insiders describing the atmosphere as “bleak”, an aide said the Prime Minister accepted the pace of progress had “left people frustrated”.
The aide added: “The PM’s style is her style but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. People should stop looking at how she does things and start looking at what she has actually achieved.
“People said we wouldn’t make sufficient progress in December and we did. They said we wouldn’t get an agreement on the implementation period and we did. And now we’re looking ahead to the June council where we will be finalising our arrangements for withdrawal and our future relationship.
“The PM has repeatedly, clearly and consistently said we’ll be taking back control of our laws, money and borders and leaving the single market and customs union. She of all people is aware of the political realities here. She knows we can’t go into an election in 2022 still being in an orbit of Brussels. It would be electoral suicide.”
Citing the recent opinion poll, the aide added: “Outside the Westminster bubble, people accept that what the PM is doing is complicated and complex. They respect her for her resilience and the fact that she keeps on going despite whatever’s thrown at her.”
Mr Davis has warned the Brexit inner cabinet that the Tories will suffer a 1997-style defeat if Britain is still tied to Brussels beyond the end of the transition period in 2021.
David Davis was reported last week to be on the brink of resigning during a dispute Theresa May
Insiders complain he is being undermined by civil servant Olly Robbins, an arch Remainer who became Number 10’s Brexit adviser last September. This, combined with the departure of Brexit Minister David Jones – said to be the “Brains of Brexit” and Mr Davis’s “details man” – has compromised his position.
A source said: “David managed to boot Robbins out of his department only for him to end up in an even more powerful position, advising Theresa May directly. He’s also suffered terribly from David Jones’s departure following the general election because Jones was an extremely bright man who was completely across all the detail, which has arguably never been David’s strongest suit.”
The Cabinet row is reportedly exacerbated by Chancellor Philip Hammond’s bid to block access to any “no-deal” planning done by Government departments.
An insider said despite giving Whitehall an extra £1.6billion to prepare for Brexit, Mr Hammond was “deliberately putting the brakes on no-deal preparations”.
“David wants us to publish all our no-deal plans to prove to Brussels our willingness to walk away but the Treasury keep on blocking the release of any information,” said a source.
“He has complained that he can’t even get the Health Department to release any paperwork on its no-deal planning.”
There are also claims of tension between the Treasury and the Bank of England over Mr Hammond’s “Remainia”.
A source said: “The Bank sees New York as London’s closest competitor, not Paris or Frankfurt, but the Chancellor can’t seem to see beyond Brussels.”
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The timeline to freedom
June 28 to 29, 2018
Next Brussels summit where EU leaders without the UK will discuss Brexit progress
Up to October 2018
Brexit negotiations between UK and EU to try to settle outstanding issues such as the Irish border question. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said negotiations must be complete before the end of October to give the 27 EU countries time to sign off the deal.
October 18 to 19, 2018
At the quarterly EU summit, the Brexit deal will be put to EU leaders. It needs approval from at least 20 of the 27 member states. The withdrawal treaty will also contain the transition deal and be accompanied by a separate “political declaration” outlining the broad terms of a free trade accord and other relationships to follow after that.
EU and British parliaments must ratify the withdrawal treaty before Brexit.
March 29, 2019
Brexit day – two years to the day since it formally filed notice to quit, the UK ends its EU membership at 11pm GMT and enters a transition period.
December 31, 2020
The transition period is due to end and the new economic and political relationship between the UK and the EU will begin.
January 1, 2021
Proposed new EU-UK free trade deal to take effect if all goes to plan, along with special treaty relationships in security, defence and research.