Theresa May to challenge both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn to back her Brexit deal or risk 'chaos'

Exclusive: Cabinet-ally of PM says agreement will be reached with Brussels  – 'It will be a bumpy ride. The seat belt light will go, flight crew will be told to get to their jump seats. But there will be a deal.'

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Sunday 30 September 2018 22:50
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Conservative Party Conference: Five things to watch

Theresa May will this week challenge both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn to back her plan for Brexit or risk “panic” and “chaos”.

A close cabinet ally of the prime minister urged Tory eurosceptics and Labour to “think about the consequences of their actions” before committing to vote down Ms May’s deal.

The senior Conservative figure told The Independent the PM was “finely attuned” as to what kind of deal would be acceptable to both parliament and the country, and that her Chequers plan was the closest to it anyone had come.

It comes after Mr Johnson launched a series of withering attacks on the PM and her plans, while Labour indicated last week it would likely vote down the deal she comes back with.

The senior Tory said: “Labour is going to have a decision to make. They will be going against not just the government, but 27 EU leaders who will have agreed it.

"If we do not get a deal through parliament there will be market panic, jobs will start moving. That is chaos.

“The same goes for Brexiteers. They will have businesses and constituents telling them that they want this settled – these people have to think about the consequences of their actions.”

Ms May has been trying to position herself carefully as the only person trying to deliver a politically viable Brexit, and will, at conference, sharpen the message by indicating that those willing to vote down her plan on the Tory right and in the opposition are failing to act in the national interest.

Emmanuel Macron says Britain could stay in the EU ‘for sure’ if it changes its mind on Brexit

The cabinet source added: “This is a prime minister who is finely attuned to this parliament and the country, and what it will get through. People have to be pragmatic.”

After the Tory conference ends there will be just two weeks until the next European Council summit, and then around four more weeks until a likely special gathering to sign off any deal in November.

They will be going against not just the government, but 27 EU leaders who will have agreed it If we do not get a deal through parliament there will be market panic, jobs will start moving. That is chaos

Senior Cabinet source 

Despite some fears that a deal will not be struck, the Conservative frontbencher was confident it would, saying: “It will be a bumpy ride. The seatbelt light will go, flight crew will be told to get to their jump seats.

“But there will be a deal. We will get movement over the next eight weeks.”

In Liverpool last week Mr Corybn suggested Labour could back the PM’s deal if it met his party’s six tests – though they are set up in such a way as to make it almost impossible.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer indicated it was likely Labour would not be able to back anything the PM came back with.

Meanwhile, ex-foreign secretary Mr Johnson undertook a series of interviews on Friday and Sunday attacking Ms May and her plans, leading to a backlash from leading figures in the party including former cabinet minister David Davis.

The cabinet source said the prime minister’s team was confident Mr Johnson does not have enough support in the parliamentary party to launch a successful challenge.

The person went on: “It is not that damaging to have stories like this in the papers today.

“He is making a lot of noise, but Boris does not have the numbers in the parliamentary party, and he knows that is the case.

“There is a big contrast between the respectful stance David Davis has taken, arguing his case, and the way Boris has pursued his own personal ambitions.”

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