Weakened May Appeals to Opponents to Help Deliver Brexit – Bloomberg
May, who is now reliant on the votes of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists to get her agenda through Parliament, will restate her political mission to tackle “injustice and vested interests that threaten to hold us back.” Social and economic reform is needed to make a success of Brexit, she will say in a speech on Tuesday, but in a sign of her weakness will call for cross-party co-operation to deliver it.
“I say to the other parties in the House of Commons, come forward with your own views and ideas about how we can tackle these challenges as a country,” May will say, according to extracts of the speech released by her office. “We can play it safe or we can strike out with renewed courage and vigor, making the case for our ideas and values and challenging our opponents to contribute, not just criticize.”
May came under fire from her own party over the weekend as she prepares to publish a draft law this week intended to repeal the U.K.’s membership of the EU, and set a new legal framework for the country after it withdraws from the bloc. Some of her Conservative Party colleagues have talked openly of the need to replace her, while opposition lawmakers are preparing a series of challenges to her Parliamentary authority.
Boost From Trump
May, who took office on July 13, 2016, insists she will still be prime minister in 2018, despite losing her majority. She received a boost on Saturday when U.S. President Donald Trump said a trade deal with the U.K. will be done “very, very quickly.”
But even that met with a mixed reaction, with the Confederation of British Industry urging the government to tread cautiously in its dealings with the U.S. Trade deals are complex “and we don’t want to walk into a bear hug,” CBI President Paul Drechsler told Sky’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” show.
May’s weakened position, having lost her majority and now trailing the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls, has reopened the debate over how Brexit should unfold, with some of her own most senior ministers now emboldened to disagree with her.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond last week called for a Brexit deal that keeps Britain close to the EU market, warning “it would be madness” to reject trade ties. In Brussels, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, sent the message that May should forget her dream of a “frictionless” trade deal, and that the road to divorce will be hard.
May, who called the June 8 election with the expectation of tightening her grip on the House of Commons and strengthening her hand in Brexit talks, will acknowledge her loss of authority in Parliament in her speech but pledge to fight on as she seeks to put the election result behind her.
“I led a majority government in the House of Commons. The reality I now face as Prime Minister is rather different,” she will say. “In this new context, it will be even more important to make the case for our policies and our values, and to win the battle of ideas both in Parliament as well as in the country.”
Justice Secretary David Lidington said the government is focusing on the “real problems” and shouldn’t be distracted by speculation over May’s leadership after a report in the Mail on Sunday newspaper said former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell had told a private dinner that May should quit.
Too Much Prosecco
“Too much sun, too much warm prosecco, lead to gossipy stories in the media,” Lidington said in an interview on BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show.” Voters want politicians to “go away and deal with the real problems people in this country are facing.”
Mitchell, a close ally of Brexit Secretary David Davis, told Conservative members of parliament at a June 26 dinner that the party needs a new leader, the Mail said, citing a lawmaker at the gathering.
Mitchell downplayed the Mail’s story, describing it in a statement to Bloomberg as “an overheated report of a private dinner conversation.”
In a further sign of the complexity of Brexit talks, the Observer newspaper reported that German businesses have warned that Britain cannot rely on German industry to help secure a good deal, contrary to the assumption among U.K. ministers that Chancellor Angela Merkel will come under pressure to preserve barrier-free access to a key market for companies such as automaker BMW AG.