Downing Street admits MPs could undo Theresa May's Chequers deal after Brexit

'No parliament can bind the hands of its successors,' says PM's spokesman

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Monday 17 September 2018 16:37 BST
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Downing Street has admitted that a future parliament could be free to unpick Theresa May’s Brexit deal after Britain has left the European Union.

Her spokesman responded to comments from prominent Brexiteer Michael Gove, who said a future prime minister could still alter Britain’s relationship with the EU after Brexit.

The prime minister is facing intense pressure to ditch her Chequers blueprint, which former foreign secretary Boris Johnson compared to a “spectacular political car crash”, as part of a concerted push by hardline Brexiteers to persuade Ms May to change course.

Mr Gove, the environment secretary, offered muted support for the plan on Sunday, saying it is “the right one for now” but it could be altered by a future prime minister.

Asked about his comments, Ms May’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “The secretary of state was simply setting out a matter of fact, which is that no parliament can bind the hands of its successors.

“The deal we are pursuing is a deal that we believe is in the best interests of the UK and of the European Union.”

Pressed on whether it was a “permanent deal”, the spokesman said: “As I said, one parliament cannot bind the hands of a successor.”

Mr Gove, a key player in the Leave campaign, admitted that he had “compromised” on some beliefs to accept the Chequers plan during an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Asked if the plan for Brexit was a “temporary” or “permanent” solution, Mr Gove replied: “I think it’s the right solution for our country to leave the European Union on the basis of what we’ve negotiated, and I think it’s absolutely right because we would be outside the single market, we would be outside the customs union.

Pressed again, he added: “No, I think it’s the right answer. But, there’s one critical thing, a future prime minister could always choose to alter the relationship between Britain and the European Union, but the Chequers approach is the right one for now as we’ve got to make sure we respect that vote and take advantage of the opportunities of being outside the EU.”

The prime minister has stepped up her efforts to sell the Chequers plan to her mutinous backbenchers, saying that MPs will have to choose between her plan or a chaotic no-deal exit from the bloc.

In an interview to mark the six-month countdown to Brexit, Ms May told the BBC: “I believe we’ll get a good deal, we’ll bring that back from the EU negotiations, put that to parliament.

“I think the alternative to that will be not having a deal because a) I don’t think the negotiations will have that deal, and b) we’re leaving on 29 March 2019.”

She still faces plenty of opposition over her strategy from senior Tories, including ex-Brexit secretary David Davis, who is expected to join Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg at a series of rallies organised by the pro-Brexit campaign group Leave Means Leave.

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