Brexit: Andrea Leadsom ‘hated’ Theresa May’s Chequers plan and warned it betrayed the referendum result

Commons leader viewed proposals as 'breaching government's red lines', leaked minutes reveal

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 20 July 2018 18:38 BST
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Commons leader Andrea Leadsom privately attacked Theresa May’s Chequers plan for Brexit as a betrayal of the referendum result, it has emerged.

The leading Brexiteer said she “hated” the proposals and viewed them as “breaching the government's red lines”, leaked minutes of the meeting at the prime minister’s country retreat reveal.

Unlike David Davis and Boris Johnson, Ms Leadsom did not resign and has since backed the package – while warning it must be “a final offer”, with no further compromises.

Her private comments lay bare the continued danger for Ms May, who will almost certainly have to agree to further concessions to strike an agreement with Brussels.

Strikingly, two other anti-Brexit cabinet ministers – Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt – have declined to give their public backing to the Chequers white paper.

Meanwhile, a separate leak of the minutes shows Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and Sajid Javid, the business secretary, clashed over the free movement of workers after Brexit.

Mr Javid said “free movement had to end” and that there could be “no back door” for EU workers beyond current international obligations, The Daily Telegraph reported.

But Mr Hammond urged the government to “keep options open”, arguing a preferential system for EU citizens is “very important for the chancellor of Germany”.

“If the UK sought her help to deliver this deal, it would need to be prepared to negotiate on this point,” he told the cabinet, the minutes show.

Free movement is top of the EU’s likely list of demands if it is to agree a version of the Chequers plan – but would be almost impossible for Ms May to agree without provoking a fresh civil war in her party.

Since the white paper was published, Ms Leadsom has denied Brexit red lines were breached, saying: “No they're not. We are still taking back control of our money, our borders and our laws.”

On the day after the summit, she said it was “good for the UK” and, three days later, insisted that “Theresa is absolutely sticking to delivering the will of the people”.

But the minutes, seen by The Times, reveal a very different stance at Chequers itself, where she accused a majority of fellow ministers and officials of “arrogance” and of having “Remainer tendencies”.

Ms Leadsom also attacked the Treasury's ability on economic forecasting and revealed that some numbers will in future no longer be published.

The minutes state: “The leader of the House of Commons said that she hated the proposal and regarded it as a breaching the government's red lines and not being true to the 17.2 million people who had voted for Brexit.

“Those people had known what they were voting for and the government could not just congratulate itself on knowing better than them.

“In her view, the majority of both minister and civil servants had Remainer tendencies and what came with that was an arrogance that they knew better.”

The leak makes clear that Ms Leadsom did back Ms May in the meeting, even though the “proposal did not look like a government trying to get the best deal it could”.

Warning of a “slippery slope”, she urged redrafting of parts of the white paper “to avoid the accusation of UK become a vassal state or of 'Brexit in name only'”.

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