Defiant Theresa May tells Tory critics: my Brexit deal is final
Theresa May will go on the offensive today as she insists her Brexit agreement with the EU is “final”.
The embattled Prime Minister, who is facing the prospect of a leadership challenge as well as mounting pressure from her own Cabinet to renegotiate key parts of the draft deal struck with the EU, will tell the CBI business group that the pact has been "agreed in full".
Five Cabinet ministers - including Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom - are expected to meet today to discuss their joint push for changes to the plan, which has drawn anger over its 'backstop' provision to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Mrs May's critics fear that the current proposals will leave the UK locked in an indefinite customs tie-up with the EU and are demanding the right for Britain to unilaterally pull out of that arrangement.
But Mrs May will insist: "The core elements of that deal are already in place. The Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed in full, subject of course to final agreement being reached on the future framework.
"That Agreement is a good one for the UK. It fulfils the wishes of the British people as expressed in the 2016 referendum."
Defending the deal, the Prime Minister will insist it gives the UK "control" of its money, law and borders, and will specifically highlight plans to give the UK "full control" of its immigration system.
"It will no longer be the case that EU nationals, regardless of the skills or experience they have to offer, can jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi," she will tell business leaders.
"Not only will this deliver on the verdict of the referendum. It should lead to greater opportunity for young people in this country to access training and skilled employment."
Mrs May's defiant message came as a senior Conservative warned his colleagues against "hunting down" the Prime Minister by triggering a leadership contest.
Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell drew parallels between the current Tory bid to secure 48 letters of no confidence in Mrs May and the ousting of ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
He told the Times: "If these letters succeed in triggering a challenge then the party will turn in on itself and that is not a good place for the Conservatives let alone the country."
Mr Mitchell added: "It will end making us look like we’re hunting the prime minister down as happened with Margaret Thatcher. It will do the party untold damage in the eyes of the public."
Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 backbench committee of Conservative MPs, on Sunday denied that Mrs May's critics had yet hit the threshold needed to trigger a vote of no confidence.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will meanwhile step up his criticism of the Prime Minister today, accusing her of spending two years striking a deal that will "leave the country in an indefinite halfway house without a real say over our future".
He will tell the CBI: "A good Brexit plan for this country is not just about what can be negotiated with Brussels.
"It must also include a radical programme of investment and real change across our regions and nations.
"Brexit should be the catalyst to invest in our regions and infrastructure, bringing good jobs and real control to local communities and people.
"If the Prime Minister is unable to negotiate an agreement that can win a majority in parliament and work for the whole country, Labour’s alternative plan can and must take its place."
The Prime Minister's deal also drew fresh criticism from Boris Johnson, the ex-foreign secretary who has been touted as a possible contender in any Tory leadership contest.
Warning that the deal would subject the UK to "colonial rule by foreign powers and courts", he added in his Telegraph column: "We can turn this round. But we are not one-nil down. We are five-nil down, and if we go on like this the second half will be worse."