Theresa May says successor must 'work with Parliament' to secure Brexit deal, in warning to Boris Johnson

Prime minister says successor cannot expect unconditional support from her over Brexit

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor, in Osaka, Japan
Friday 28 June 2019 05:39
Boris Johnson pledges to deliver Brexit by 31 October 'do or die'

Theresa May has said her successor as prime minister must “work with Parliament” to secure a Brexit deal which is in the national interest.

And she did not rule out working from the backbenches to block a no-deal withdrawal, saying only that she would give “every support” to ensuring that the UK leaves the EU “in an orderly way”.

The comments will be seen as a warning to leadership favourite Boris Johnson, who last night said it would be “absolute folly” to rule out the option of suspending parliamentary proceedings to force through a no-deal EU withdrawal against the wishes of MPs.

On a trip to Japan for her swansong global summit as PM, Ms May has already given notice to her successor that he cannot expect her automatic support from the backbenches if he pushes for a no-deal Brexit.

Asked by The Independent whether she would commit to back the new PM’s approach, even if that meant no agreement with Brussels, she made clear she was not prepared to sign up to “whatever happens in the future”.

In a round of broadcast interviews at the G20 summit in Osaka, Ms May left no doubt that she believes her successor - either Mr Johnson or foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt - should be seeking an “orderly” exit based on an agreement with Brussels approved by MPs.

She signaled her distaste for the option of asking the Queen to suspend parliament - in a process known as “prorogation” - to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal Brexit on the deadline of 31 October.

“What is important is that whoever takes over from me will be looking to work with Parliament to find a way in which a majority can be gained in Parliament to ensure that we do what is in the national interest,” she said.

“I am sure that whoever succeeds me is going to be working to achieve the majority in Parliament that I was not able to achieve in order to ensure that we can leave the EU and we can leave in an orderly way.

“I was not able to achieve that majority in Parliament. I didn't look to prorogue Parliament but whoever succeeds me will, I'm sure, be looking to work with Parliament to ensure that majority can be achieved.”

When asked if she would work to block no-deal from the backbenches, she did not rule out the possibility, replying: “I will be ensuring that I am giving every support to ensuring that we can leave the EU and do that in an orderly way.”

Theresa May arrives with her husband Philip May in Osaka, where she is expected to hold bilateral talks with Vladimir Putin

Despite seeing the withdrawal agreement which she agreed with Brussels last November voted down three times by MPs, Ms May made clear that she still regards it as a good deal.

She suggested that her successor, who is due to take over the reins of power on 24 July, should go back to Brussels and “approach the EU to discuss the agreement we have”.

She said: “I have always been clear that I think it's in the best interests of the UK to be able to leave the EU in an orderly way. I think that means with a good deal.

“I still think that we negotiated a good agreement, but I couldn't get it through Parliament.

“Whoever takes over from me will have that task to find a way of getting an agreement through Parliament.”

Ms May has so far refused to reveal who she backed in the MPs’ votes to produce the shortlist of two contenders to replace her.

And she declined to discuss the characters of the two men currently taking part in a national vote of the Conservatives 160,000 members to select a new leader.

“I am asked all sorts of questions about ways of trying to find me to give indications in relation to individuals,” she said. “I'm not going to do that.

“I have had my term - and it's coming to an end soon – as prime minister. I have done the job that I believed was the right job to do for the UK, I know my successor will do the same.”

Looking back on her time at 10 Downing Street, she said: “It's a huge privilege to be Prime Minister, it's a huge honour, it's a huge responsibility.

“I will look back on – yes - difficult and challenging times in relation to Brexit, but also some important decisions that have been taken under my premiership.

“One of the most recent of those of course is the target for net zero emissions by 2050 which is now in law in the UK, we are leading the way on that.

“I am proud of the work that we have done in the UK and I look forward to returning to the backbenches and being able to give my full time to my constituency.

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