UK's May tells party to drop dream of a 'perfect' Brexit

Kenny Grant
October 8, 2018

At any rate, her entrance at the Conservative Party Conference - set to ABBA's "Dancing Queen", naturally - wasn't just a self-deprecating reference to the recent viral video of her rather unconventional dance moves.

At the conference, May called Brexit a "moment of opportunity" but was forced to urge supporters to get behind her as she heads into what would be the "toughest phase" of negotiations.

There was also no mention of the former foreign secretary, who won thunderous applause from 1,500 activists on Tuesday as he called on her to "chuck" the Brexit plan agreed at her country residence in July.

May acknowledged the coming months were crucial, and warned failing to reach a deal "would be a bad outcome" for both sides. We are entering the toughest part of the negotiations.

She said that "leaving without a deal - introducing tariffs and costly checks at the border - would be a bad outcome for the United Kingdom and the EU" - though she refused to rule it out. "It is in the national interest", she told the conference Wednesday. She reasserted her commitment to finding a realistic compromise with the European Union - unlike some of her conservative rivals, who she said "are not acting in the national interest, but their own political interest".

May then set out a wide-ranging vision for the future, attacking leftist Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, promising new homebuilding measures and vowing to make the economy work for those "left behind".

And she announced a new cancer strategy to increase early detection of the illness and save 55,000 lives a year by 2028, along with a ninth successive annual freeze in fuel duty. "We are trying very hard to avoid these circumstances arising", he told ITV's Peston show.

But many Tories agree with Johnson and other Brexiteers, who argue May s so-called Chequers plan betrays the hopes of a clean break expressed by many who voted in 2016 to leave the EU.

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European leaders in turn warn this would undermine the integrity of their own single market, leaving the talks at a risky impasse.

Mrs May has said she will come forward with revised proposals to try to break the deadlock with the European Union over the so-called Irish "backstop" to prevent the return of a hard border if the two sides fail to reach a wider agreement on their future relationship.

However, she did not actually use the word Chequers in the hour-long address, prompting speculation the name itself has been quietly dropped as too toxic. And the two main solutions offered - closing the border, or adding checks on goods that cross the Irish Sea - have proven to be nonstarters so far.

Second (as George Parker reports), in order to maintain the invisible Irish border, Britain will accept that goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain must meet European Union standards, with the potential for checks in the Irish Sea.

May's party depends on the DUP for its majority in the House of Commons.

She warned that if Tory MPs split in pursuing their "perfect Brexit" they risked ending up with "no Brexit at all".

The overtones of her comments were in support for moderate Labour MPs, members and supporters not usually used to love from the Conservatives, 'Would Neil Kinnock...have stood by while his own MPs faced deselection and needed police protection at their conference?

May has surprised observers by surviving this far and many delegates at the conference - whatever their feelings on Brexit - are wary of a change at the top now.

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