Michael Gove calls for more open approach to Brexit as Theresa May faces pressure to overhaul EU stance – The Independent
Mr Gove said Tories needed to recognise the British public had not given them a majority in the Commons and should proceed with the “maximum possible consensus”.
Ex-Tory leader William Hague also called for a cross-party working group on Brexit, following a push from Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Chancellor Philip Hammond for a more pragmatic approach that puts jobs and the economy first.
But The Independent understands reports that substantial cross-party talks are already taking place are overplayed, with Labour sources saying no frontbenchers have been involved in discussions with Conservatives.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Gove pointed out that people voted “in huge numbers” for both parties committed to Brexit.
But he then said: “It’s also the case that we must recognise that we as Conservatives were not returned with a majority and that means we need to proceed with the maximum possible consensus, and that we also need to ensure that the concerns of people who voted remain, many of whom want us now to press ahead with leaving the European Union…we need to make sure that their concerns are part of our conversation.”
With a full cabinet meeting due later on Tuesday, he added: “The most important thing is if you want to proceed with the maximum possible support, that you engage in an open conversation and in that open conversation what you don’t do is try to coral others to a particular position.”
He denied he was advocating a “softening” of Ms May’s approach to Brexit and also distanced himself from any plans for a full cross-party working group.
The idea, already touted by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, was raised by Lord Hague in his column for The Telegraph, saying ministers could convene a group to agree a plan for public spending.
He went on: “Such a simultaneous change of the style of government and the substance of its decisions, is also the way to break through the most difficult problem of all, how to steer Brexit in a way that leads to a good agreement, gives confidence to businesses and creates a broader consensus among MPs.”
He said that Jeremy Corbyn should also be party to the talks, along with business groups and other local and national political leaders.
But reports of cross-party talks already taking place appeared premature, with Labour sources confirming that no frontbenchers have had any contact over Brexit with Conservatives.
Tory and Labour backbenchers meanwhile, have been having informal discussions over EU withdrawal for months through organisations like the Open Britain group, which campaigns for a softer Brexit, and in Westminster.
Ms May’s new chief of staff signalled on Monday that the Government will look again at austerity and its Brexit plans.
Gavin Barwell explained that a key reason for his party losing the election is because it struggled to convince people that their “quality of life” would improve under the Tories, while Jeremy Corbyn tapped into their concerns.
Scottish Tory leader Ms Davidson said Ms May should work with other parties to form a consensus on Brexit, having met the Prime Minister at Downing Street.
Mr Hammond is said to have demanded a more pragmatic approach to Brexit, rather than one focussed on immigration, as the price of his support for Ms May in the wake of the botched election campaign.