LONDON • UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for unity over Brexit, following a week in which Cabinet tensions spilled over and her plan for Britain’s trading relationship with the European Union (EU) as labelled “crazy” by a key party member.
“You can trust me to deliver,” May wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper. “The path I am setting out is the path to deliver the Brexit people voted for,” she said, adding, “I will not let you down.”
Less than a year until the UK leaves the EU, May’s government still can’t agree what to seek in the exit negotiations.
The resignation of a key ally has left May outnumbered in her inner Cabinet over her proposal for a close customs relationship with the bloc, while the Sunday Telegraph reported that overall, at least 12 ministers — of 28 who sit in Cabinet alongside May — are set to oppose her plan.
May last week ordered her ministers to take responsibility for resolving the Brexit customs dilemma themselves, splitting her inner “war Cabinet” into two working groups to iron out their differences.
Both groups include ministers from the pro and anti-Brexit factions, but two of the most hard line on each side — Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, responsible for the “crazy” barb, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond — aren’t included.
Meanwhile, May has put off sending a key piece of Brexit legislation to the House of Commons after peers repeatedly defeated the government as the bill passed through the upper House of Lords.
Debates in the House of Commons on May’s Brexit laws, when they come, are likely to expose her predicament even further — she’s stuck between a likely majority for a customs union, and the more than 60 lawmakers in her Conservative Party threatening to derail her government if she goes for one.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a leading pro-Brexit campaigner, said her customs partnership idea had “f laws”, though he also acknowledged that neither plan was perfect. Significantly, he said colleagues should trust May on Brexit.
Writing in the Times, May appeared to acknowledge the inherent divisions.
“Of course, the details are incredibly complex and, as in any negotiation, there will have to be compromises,” the UK prime minister wrote.
“But if we stick to the task we will seize this once in-a-generation opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain that is respected around the world and confident and united at home.”