Leader of May's "footsoldiers" warns squabbling ministers to back Brexit strategy
LONDON, July 1 (Xinhua) -- An influential leading Conservative politician made an unusual intervention Sunday in the Brexit debate, warning ministers to unite behind Prime Minister Theresa May or risk a Labour government taking over 10 Downing Street.
Graham Brady, who chairs the committee made up of back-bench Conservative members of parliament, spoke out just days before May gathers her entire team of front bench ministers for a Brexit showdown.
May has summoned her ministers to an awayday event at her country retreat, Chequers, 66 km from Downing Street and away from the glare of the army of journalists and photographers who zoom in on the doorway of Number 10.
The aim of the awayday is to reach a consensus among her warring cabinet members on what Britain wants to see in its working relationship with the European Union after it ends its membership of the bloc next March.
Cabinet minister James Brokenshire said in a BBC interview Sunday he is confident ministers will settle their differences over Brexit at the crucial Chequers summit on Friday.
Brokenshire acknowledged there were strong views on both sides, but predicted the away-day would yield a clear direction on Brexit from the Britain.
May has promised more details in a government paper that will be published after Friday's cabinet get-together.
Spelling out May's dilemma, Brady, writing in the Observer newspaper said: "Her seemingly endless task is to deliver an orderly departure from the European Union, with no overall majority in parliament and in the teeth of opposition from some who still delude themselves that the referendum vote can be ignored. The PM (May) is winning considerable support in the country for her determined perseverance."
Brady, who heads what are essentially May's footsoldiers in the House of Commons, said unpicking four decades of EU law and regulation so closely entwined with Britain's sown statutes was always going to be complicated.
He added: "It is hard to see how anyone on the government side can think it is in the national interest to send Mrs May to negotiate the best future relationship with the EU with anything less than a united team behind her."
TIME RUNNING OUT
Brady added: "As we move into the final stages of our efforts to agree a close cooperative relationship with the EU after Brexit, it has never been more important for ministers to observe the cardinal rule of cabinet government. The danger of disunity at the top is not just that it makes the prime minister's job more difficult in negotiations with Brussels, and therefore puts at risk the good Brexit deal that is in reach, but it also gives an impression of division to the country."
He said it's not just backbench Conservative MPs who expect ministers to pull together behind May. The great swathe of the British electorate which either voted Leave, or voted Remain recognise that a united team will achieve a better trading relationship for the future than a divided one, Brady said.
The Guardian said Sunday The prime minister will use the meeting to warn that time is running out to secure a deal and prevent Britain from crashing out of the bloc with no agreement in place.
The Independent reported Sunday that EU negotiators in Brussels have abandoned all hope that a Brexit deal will be signed with the UK at October's European Council summit.
The newspaper commented: "Brussels officials said a complete standstill in talks with Britain means securing settlements on major outstanding issues in the remaining three-and-a-half months is fanciful. They point to the political logjam in Theresa May's government as the obstacle blocking negotiations, piling pressure on the prime minister to break the deadlock this week."
Meanwhile top officials of Britain's National Health Service (NHS) are planning explicitly for protecting public health in the event of a Brexit no-deal scenario, media reports in London said Sunday.
The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, said that there is now "significant planning" for protecting the NHS including ensuring vital medical supplies can get through if Britain crashes out of the EU.