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Theresa May is standing firm on Brexit – but everyone at the Tory conference knows that her plan has failed

Although Philip Hammond did back Chequers in his conference speech, other ministers defend May without defending her blueprint

Andrew Grice
Thursday 22 November 2018 18:17 GMT
Theresa May says she wants to hear the EU's counter proposals to Chequers deal

The Conservative Party conference is a holding operation, and yet another survival course for Theresa May. To say that it is badly timed for her is a massive understatement. By now, she should have been closing in on a deal with the EU, and could have tried to sell it to the Tory activists who have come to Birmingham.

But after her mauling by the EU27 at last month’s Salzburg summit, May is left trying to breathe life into the dead duck of her Chequers plan. She knows the next act in the Brexit drama will have to be some movement by her towards the EU’s position. Behind the scenes, such proposals are being quietly drawn up. But the prime minister cannot risk being open about them at the Tory conference. Any concessions would fuel the “betrayal” narrative being advanced by Boris Johnson, as he exploits her difficulties to advance his own prospects of succeeding her.

With no EU agreement in sight, ministers fill the vacuum by pleading for Tory unity, making predictable attacks on Labour and bashing the EU, which of course all plays well with Tory members. May will play the immigration card in her speech to the conference on Wednesday.

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