David Davis says criticism of Theresa May is 'height of self-indulgence' and signals hard Brexit plans remain

Brexit Secretary defends Prime Minister over the snap election and losing her majority

Rachael Revesz
Monday 12 June 2017 18:00 BST
David Davis: Speculation over Conservative party leadership is the 'height of self-indulgence'

Brexit Secretary David Davis has said criticism of Theresa May is the “height of self-indulgence” – and signalled the Government would continue to pursue a hard Brexit.

The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure after a disastrous general election that saw the Conservative Party lose its Parliamentary majority, and was due for a crucial meeting with Tory MPs yesterday.

But the leader received strong backing from Mr Davis, who told the BBC ‘Radio 4 Today’ programme: “Look, I view the stuff in the papers this weekend as the absolute height of self-indulgence, on [the part of] people who speculate on leadership or so on or getting involved in it.

“We have been given an instruction by the British people and the decision by the British people is now for us to go back and do the job, not to bicker amongst ourselves whose fault it was or whatever.”

The comments come after the Tories failed to secure an overall majority in Parliament while Labour gained 34 seats, forcing the party to make a deal with Northern Ireland’s unionist party, the DUP.

Ms May, with Mr Davis’s support, called a snap election within seven weeks as she claimed there was a lack of unity in Westminster.

After repeated claims that she would not hold a snap election, she said the turnaround was to provide her with a mandate to hold successful Brexit negotiations.

Mr Davis said during the Radio 4 interview that he would take responsibility for holding another election “along with the other 20 or so cabinet members who agreed with the decision”.

David Davis: Theresa May is 'fine' and wasn't sobbing when I saw her

“It was nothing to do with the polls, per se, it was to do with the timetable,” he claimed, adding that holding an election on the old timetable would have clashed with the Brexit negotiations and given the opposition an “easy pressure point”.

He said the priority for the Tories in the Brexit negotiations was the status of British people living in the European Union as the issue was “time sensitive,” while European counterparts was focused on their citizens in the UK, “money and Northern Ireland”.

Mr Davis also insisted the Government would leave the single market and end free movement.

“It’s not ‘hard’ [Brexit], it’s just a logical outcome,” he said.

He added that the Government would stick to its mantra of a “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

“If you go into a negotiation without the ability to walk away, then you will have a poor outcome in the negotiation – it doesn’t matter whether you’re buying a house or doing an international treaty,” he said.

After the weak election result for the Tories, the Daily Mail claimed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was planning to launch a bid for Prime Minister – a claim he dismissed as “tripe”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for Ms May to resign, as did Tory MPs such as Anna Soubry.

In response, Mr Johnson wrote in The Sun that people engaging in speculation should “get a grip”.

Theresa May: I've brought 'talent' to the cabinet from across the Conservative Party

The same day, pictures of a group WhatsApp conversation, including Mr Johnson and Michael Gove calling Ms May a “woman of extraordinary qualities,” was leaked to the press – some say deliberately.

At the time the party called an election, the Prime Minister was enjoying record-high approval ratings, but they plummeted in parallel with Labour’s rise in May and June after several U-turns from Ms May including the “dementia tax” and social care.

The Tories lost traditional seats such as Canterbury and Kensington, despite winning more votes than former Prime Minister Tony Blair gained in the landslide of 1997.

The election outcome was “not the one we would have liked,” admitted Mr Davis, but said he was happy the party was back in government.

He added that the Brexit talks represented the largest negotiations for the UK since WW2. Talks are set to start this month.

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