Theresa May heads to the North East in bid to sell controversial Brexit deal

Posted On: 
23rd July 2018

Theresa May will attempt to sell her controversial Brexit plan to the North East of England today, as she gathers her top ministers for the last Cabinet meeting before the summer recess.

The Prime Minister will chair her Cabinet in Gateshead amid disquiet over her Brexit plans.

Brexit will be high on the agenda as the Cabinet meets in Gateshead for a summit that will also focus on plans to boost infrastructure and devolution in the region.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mrs May said: "Making Britain a country that works for everyone, in urban and rural regions, is a priority for my Government - and a thriving economy across the Northern Powerhouse is central to that.

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"We have set out major policies and investments as part of our modern industrial strategy to unlock the potential in the north - and more than any government in history, we are making sure that we are delivering the outcomes that really matter to people who live and work here."

The main focus of Mrs May's meeting today will be to announce a £780m funding boost for the east coast mainline rail service and give the go-ahead to a "North of Tyne" devolution deal.

But Downing Street has also confirmed that the Cabinet will discuss a Brexit deal that "works for every corner of the UK", amid signs of public dissatisfaction with the agreement thrashed out at Chequers last month.

Mrs May's plan pushes for a "common rulebook" on goods traded with the European Union and looks to set up an EU-UK free trade area that keeps close customs ties with the bloc.

The Government argues that the plans stand the best chance of avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland and curbing disruption to businesses.

But key Brexiteers have warned that the Government's plans will leave the UK too closely bound to key European Union institutions, and Mrs May has suffered a string of resignations over the proposals in recent weeks.

A YouGov study published over the weekend revealed that just 12% of people think the plan would be good for Britain, with 43% saying it represented a bad deal.

The Prime Minister has already ordered top ministers to spend the summer touring European capitals in a bid to convince politicians on the continent that the plans in her Brexit white paper are workable.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is heading to Germany today, and said he would urge his counterpart Heiko Maas to be open to the UK's proposals.

"I will… be clear that our European partners must show much more flexibility and creativity in negotiations if we are to avoid a ‘no deal by accident’ scenario," he said ahead of the visit.