Theresa May: Time for Brussels to get serious in Brexit talks
Theresa May has told Brussels it is time to “get serious” about the Brexit negotiations as top Cabinet ministers from both sides of the debate joined forces to rally behind her.
The Prime Minister urged the EU to cast aside its “rigid approach” after her ministers struck a major peace deal at a crunch summit to hammer out their Brexit plan.
And she channelled England manager Gareth Southgate for the next heave of the talks, as she said: "Let’s just take it one game at a time."
But her warrior words came amid a growing backlash from anti-EU Tories - with calls for darling of the Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg to oust Mrs May in a leadership challenge.
After a marathon summit at her Chequers country residence on Friday, the Prime Minister won backing for her plan to effectively keep Britain in the EU single market for goods, but not for services.
In a major victory, Mrs May also persuaded Brexiteer ministers to sign up to her preferred post-Brexit customs plan as well as a string of other proposals that would see the UK stay closely tied to Brussels.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson branded the plans “a turd” at the meeting before he fell into line and backed them - handing the PM the green light to take the fight to Brussels.
“Our message now is to the other side, to Europe, that it’s time to get serious and sit down and talk about it,” she told the Sunday Times.
“It’s now for Europe to be prepared to sit down and move the pace of negotiations on and talk about it seriously and address what we’ve put forward.”
She added: “I think what we’ve seen so far is the [European Commission] very much holding fast to a rigid approach in terms of what’s of interest to the Commission.
“The sense I get from European leaders is that they are starting to say, ‘What matters for our economies? What matters for our futures? What matters for our people?’
“I think there is a willingness to be constructive — to recognise that as the clock is ticking, actually we need to sit down and negotiate.”
In a message to the people of Britain, Mrs May said: “I won’t let you down. Everything I do, I always put the interests of the country first rather than my own personal interest.”
And in a rallying cry she added: “I think we should take a leaf out of Gareth Southgate’s book and say let’s just take it one game at a time.”
'GIVE AND TAKE'
Meanwhile, Cabinet ministers from across the Brexit divide put their differences aside to back the Prime Minister in the wake of the breakthrough Chequers summit.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, pro-EU Chancellor Philip Hammond and anti-EU Transport Secretary Chris Grayling vowed to “bring the country together around this vision and build a brighter future for Britain”.
And in the Mail on Sunday, anti-EU Environment Secretary Michael Gove teamed up with pro-EU Business Secretary Greg Clark to issue a similar message - admitting there must be “give and take” in the Brexit talks.
“As we have shown flexibility to agree this generous proposal, we hope EU nations ask their negotiators to show similar flexibility and generosity,” they declared.
“We are united across Cabinet in believing that the time has now come for the EU to move towards us.”
In the Observer, pro-Remain former minister Nicky Morgan hailed the agreement and said it was time to take the fight to Brussels.
“If the EU rejects this cabinet position without further consideration then that only helps those who want a no-deal, hard Brexit, which I believe would be a disaster for Britain and the EU,” she said.