Theresa May to 'set out more detail' on Brexit plans in major speech next month, Downing Street says

Plan is revealed as No 10 confirms an ‘away day’ for warring cabinet ministers at Chequers

The Prime Minster is under pressure from all sides – at home and abroad – to clarify her plans for leaving the EU
The Prime Minster is under pressure from all sides – at home and abroad – to clarify her plans for leaving the EU

Theresa May will seek to clear up confusion about her Brexit plans in a major speech by the start of next month, Downing Street says.

The decision to make a showpiece address – which the Prime Minister had appeared to back away from – is revealed as No 10 confirmed an “away day” for warring cabinet ministers at Chequers.

That get-together will aim to somehow achieve a consensus between ministers seeking to hug the EU close after Brexit and those demanding a clean break from the single market and customs union.

The scale of the task was underlined this week, when a two-day meeting of the inner Cabinet broke up with no agreement on trading rules, immigration or the Irish border.

On Friday, an exasperated Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said he was mystified by the Government’s approach to the negotiations, as he warned a transitional deal “is not a given”.

Ms May has been accused of still trying to her “have her cake and eat it” by rejecting alignment with EU rules, while demanding tariff-free and frictionless trade.

Now Downing Street has revealed that a string of senior cabinet ministers will make key speeches in the next few weeks, a period during which the Brexit subcommittee will stage its away day.

First up will be Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary and arch-Brexiteer, with a “rallying cry to those on both sides of the Brexit debate” next Wednesday, a No 10 source suggested.

The Prime Minister herself will set out the new security relationship Britain is seeking with the EU, when she addresses an international security conference in Munich next Saturday.

Further speeches will be delivered by David Davis, the Brexit Secretary (on how Britain’s businesses maintain high standards), Cabinet Office minister David Lidington (devolution) and Trade Secretary Liam Fox (how Britain will forge new trade deals).

The process will culminate in a further speech by Ms May, who will “set out the Government’s ambitions for Britain’s partnership with the EU after we have left”.

It will be her third on Brexit, following the Lancaster House speech in January 2017, which announced the UK would leave the single market and customs union, and the Florence speech, in September, which set out hopes for a transition.

Both wings of the Tory party have urged the Prime Minister to stop fudging her Brexit plans, some MPs warning further dither will bring a vote of no confidence in her leadership closer.

Meanwhile, business leaders have warned they will start to implement plans to move part of their operations out of the UK unless the transition deal is nailed down by the end of March.

But – even if that is achieved – the clock is ticking on agreeing a framework for a long-term trade deal by the EU’s deadline of the autumn.

The Downing Street source said: “Brexit is a defining moment in the history of our nation. We will be forging an ambitious new partnership with Europe and charting our own way in the world to become a truly global, free trading nation.

“As we move along the road to that future, we will set out more detail so people can see how this new relationship will benefit communities in every part of our country.”

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