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May faces struggle to keep Brexit plans on track amid Tory tensions

UK News | Published:

Pro and anti-Brexit Tory MPs called for a change in the PM’s stance.

Theresa May is battling to keep her Brexit agenda on track as she faces growing Tory tensions and reports of opposition from Brussels to a key part of withdrawal plans.

With the shock resignation of pro-Europe transport minister Jo Johnson continuing to cause ructions in Tory ranks, the Prime Minister is running out of time to seal an EU exit deal.

Hope of getting the Cabinet to sign off on Brexit deal proposals this week appeared to be rapidly receding as it was reported the EU had rejected UK plans for an independent arbitration clause that could allow the UK to quit a backstop deal on the Northern Ireland border.

With both pro and anti-withdrawal Tories becoming more vocal in their opposition to Mrs May’s stance, arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg called on the PM to change tack.

He urged Mrs May to end the deadlock by paying the EU £20 billion to secure a “no deal plus” arrangement with the bloc after withdrawal.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Rees-Mogg, who heads the influential European Research Group of 80 Tory MPs, suggested offering the financial deal to Brussels in order to “make our departure as amicable as possible”.

Previously critical of the £39 billion divorce bill the UK is set to pay the EU, Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: “It is time for convinced Brexiteers like me to compromise.

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“So, at this late hour in the negotiations, we would like to make a new, generous offer to break the deadlock, to achieve a ‘No Deal Plus’.

“It would cost us money but it would finally dispel the ‘crash out’ Project Fear nightmare scenarios.”

Brexit
Jo Johnson’s resignation shocked Westminster (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“There are a number of issues that need to be worked through on the Northern Ireland backstop and these are the most difficult.

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“They include ensuring that, if it is ever needed, it is not permanent and there is a mechanism to ensure the UK could not be held in the arrangement indefinitely.”

Former Cabinet minister Justine Greening, who shares Mr Johnson’s view that a fresh referendum is needed, called on Tories to oppose the PM’s Chequers proposals.

She told The Observer: “The parliamentary deadlock has been clear for some time. It’s crucial now for Parliament to vote down this plan, because it is the biggest giveaway of sovereignty in modern times.”

The view was echoed by Brexiteer Tory MP Andrew Bridgen who told a meeting of the Bruges Group: “If we can’t chuck Chequers then it’s time to chuck the Prime Minister.”

Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker and DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson wrote in The Sunday Telegraph: “If the Government makes the historic mistake of prioritising placating the EU over establishing an independent and whole UK, then, regrettably, we must vote against the deal.”

Brexiteers have insisted that the UK should not get involved with a potentially permanent backstop customs union agreement with the EU as the price of avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland.

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