Andrea Leadsom launches leadership bid and pledges to protect rights of EU nationals
Andrea Leadsom has launched her bid to be next Prime Minister by setting out her plan to make Britain the “greatest country on earth”.
The Energy Minister stressed her eurosceptic credentials while also pledging to focus more on early years intervention.
Ms Leadsom said the decision to vote to leave the European Union was “perhaps the biggest moment since the Berlin Wall came down”.
Backed by a cadre of leading pro-Brexit Conservatives, Ms Leadsom said she would guarantee the rights of EU nationals who were already living in the UK – something that current frontrunner Theresa May has refused to do.
She said the foreign citizens – and Britons who are living in other member states – must not be used as a “bargaining chip” in the negotiations.
But she suggested new immigrants who come before the UK has negotiated its final exit from the EU could have fewer rights.
“We have to very quickly get in control of the numbers who are coming here,” Ms Leadsom told a tightly-packed room in Westminster.
“Whether that means we have to have transitional arrangements since the referendum or, indeed, since negotiations start, I’m very clear that what we must prioritise as soon as possible, now that we have clarity about the direction we’re going in, that we want to be able to control the numbers of people.”
For other member states to deny British citizens the same right to remain would be “very rash and very unfair”, she added.
Other policy priorities that were outlined were a crackdown on excess pay for CEOs and a “transformation” in the focus on early intervention.
Ms Leadsom said she would lead the UK to the “sunlit uplands” outside the European Union, adding: “I believe we can become the greatest country on earth.”
She also said she would protect and enhance workers’ rights through the negotiation process.
She said she would “supercharge” the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse and push for a decision on expanding airport capacity “very soon”.
The minister has faced a series of criticisms this morning from her leadership rivals – including that she is being propped up by Ukip.
Speaking just an hour later and a short walk down the road from the venue where Nigel Farage resigned as Ukip leader, Ms Leadsom was told the MEP had become available.
“For what?” she replied, before insisting she had “no allegiances” to Ukip.
A Cabinet-level ministerial post would be created to lead the Brexit negotiations, and that would not be occupied by Mr Farage, she clarified.
“I will only have my key negotiating team from the Government. That’s quite clear. There will be consultations, but it will be the Government Cabinet minister and members of the Government who lead the negotiation.”