Cabinet ministers compare Theresa May's Brexit opponents to swingers at sex party in bizarre discussion

Michael Gove is said to have compared critics to 'mid-50s swingers waiting for Scarlett Johansson to turn up'

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 08 January 2019 14:31
Comments
What is the Brexit meaningful vote?

Cabinet ministers have compared MPs wanting to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal of acting like middle-aged “swingers” hopelessly waiting for people with Hollywood good looks to arrive at a sex-party.

Michael Gove is said to have sparked the discussion by saying to colleagues that opponents of Ms May’s deal were waiting for “Scarlett Johansson”, while a female cabinet minister is said to have chipped in saying “or Pierce Brosnan”.

Another senior frontbencher took the metaphor further and likened Labour’s position on Brexit to waiting for “Scarlett Johansson on a unicorn”.

The bizarre discussion took place as Ms May’s top team of ministers discussed the critical vote on the prime minister’s deal which is now confirmed for Tuesday 15 January.

The Conservative leader’s aides have resumed their push to persuade Tory rebels of the merits of Ms May’s approach, promising new concession from Brussels, but also warning Brexit could be delayed or cancelled if they do not support it.

When asked about the swingers conversation at the cabinet table, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Next question.”

The discussion took place in the context of the ‘meaningful vote’ on Ms May’s Brexit deal, which is to follow five days of debate starting tomorrow.

Environment secretary Mr Gove made the point that some MPs were opposing the deal in the hope that something perfect would come along afterwards, adding that they are like “mid-50s swingers waiting for Scarlett Johansen to turn up”.

Scarlett Johansson on flirting

A female member of the cabinet, believed to be Amber Rudd, then added “or Pierce Brosnan” is an attempt to ensure the metaphor’s gender balance.

As the conversation moved on to Labour’s position on Brexit, justice secretary David Gauke picked up the theme again claiming it was like Scarlett Johansson “on a unicorn”.

Mr Gauke appeared in news stories after a previous cabinet meeting in which he compared the ‘managed no-deal’ Brexit favoured by some eurosceptic colleagues to a unicorn, and he then later appeared in a picture on Twitter holding a little model of one of the mythical creatures.

The prime minister’s spokesman said that Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay would open the debate and that the prime minister herself would close it, giving one final chance to make a plea to MP to back her deal.

He indicated that the debate could take a similar form to that which began before Christmas, with different days exploring different themes like, the economy, security and trade.

Justice secretary David Gauke

The spokesman added that there had been a “reaffirmation” during the meeting that it was not the government’s position to extend the Article 50 negotiating period beyond Brexit, March 29.

The prime minister is currently attempting to win further assurances from the EU over the Irish backstop that is so hated by her DUP partners in government and many on her backbenches.

Irish leader Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday that the Brussels is “happy to give” the UK fresh assurances over the backstop, an arrangement which comes into play if no new trade deal is agreed by December 2020 and which could lead to the UK being in an indefinite customs union with the EU.

Ahead of a vote on Ms May’s proposed withdrawal agreement in parliament, the Taoiseach told the Irish Times: “We don’t want to trap the UK into anything.”

His comments during a trip to Mali could give fresh hope to the prime minister, whose Brexit plan faces almost certain defeat without input from Brussels that would make it more palatable to rebellious MPs in her own party.

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