Theresa May tells Cabinet plotters Brexit withdrawal deal will not be changed

Posted On: 
18th November 2018

Theresa May today issued a thinly-veiled slapdown to Cabinet colleagues who argue her Brexit agreement can still be negotiated.

Michael Gove is said to be among those pushing for changes to the Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister said her focus between now and when the draft withdrawal plan gets the rubber stamp from EU leaders was the future trading relationship with the bloc.

She made the comments after reports Andrea Leadsom was leading five Cabinet members in a push to secure changes to the plan to protect the Northern Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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Pro-Brexit figures in the party have been left outraged that the so-called ‘backstop’ proposal could see the UK locked in a customs arrangement with the EU unless the bloc agrees to release it.

Ms Leadsom told the BBC yesterday the withdrawal agreement could be “improved” - and is thought to have Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt and Chris Grayling backing her.

But Mrs May told Sky News today ahead of the crucial European Council summit next Sunday to lock in the deal: “The focus this week will be on a future relationship.”

But in a threat to the EU, she added: “There is indeed more negotiation taking place and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed…

“We won’t agree the leaving part - that was the withdrawal agreement - until we have got what we want in the future relationship.”

And she insisted the backstop plan was an “insurance policy” that both the UK and EU would do their best to avoid.

Mrs May revealed she would be heading back to Brussels this week for talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Elsewhere, Dominic Raab - who quit as Brexit Secretary over the withdrawal plan - also urged Mrs May to change course, arguing the backstop plan was unacceptable.

He said parts of the proposed 500-page document were “fatally flawed,” would “taint” the future trading negotiations, and amounted to “a clear breach of the promise every Conservative went into the last election with.”

Asked on the BBC Andrew Marr show if it was worth the £39bn Brexit divorce bill, he simply said: “No.”