Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Brexit strategy: PM May faces crunch meeting with Tories

LONDON: Tories furious at the election fiasco will demand changes to her leadership style and concessions on key policy areas including Brexit.

In a sign of the task ahead, the weakened leader must appease both those who believe voters have rejected a hard Brexit, and others demanding she plough on with a tough approach.

Mrs May appears to have avoided an immediate coup, with Boris Johnson urging unsettled MPs to back her and to “calm down” as Conservatives from across the party were openly speculating that the Prime Minister’s days are numbered – ex-chancellor George Osborne even branded her a “dead woman walking”.

Chairman of the influential Tory backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, confirmed Mrs May would be attending a meeting of the group today.

He insisted there was no appetite for an immediate leadership challenge which could plunge them into another general election, but acknowledged policies set out in the Tory manifesto would have to be abandoned.

The meeting is likely to see Mrs May face further demands to transform the way she operates, similar to those Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said have already been made by senior ministers.

One Brexit-backing MP, Andrew Bridgen, said: “We owe it to the country to really get behind the PM and deliver stability, but she knows what she has to do. She needs to be strong and stable, but contrite – about the way the campaign went and what’s got to change.”

Others like Philip Hammond saw things differently, with the Chancellor reported to have told Mrs May she must put “jobs first” in negotiating a new deal with Brussels, a veiled swipe at her focus on immigration.

A senior Tory MP added: “If we fail to deliver stable government now, there’s a serious risk Jeremy Corbyn could be elected with a majority. So the key thing is not doing anything that would mean him ending up in Downing Street now.”

Another ex-Tory minister commented: “Her Brexit strategy has been completely blown out of the water. Some people don’t understand that.The penny hasn’t dropped.”

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