Thursday, May 30

Gove and Johnson congratulate May on Brexit deal



Michael Gove says any Brexit supporter should be delighted the UK will be free from the ECJ, single market and customs union.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson led senior Brexit supporters in congratulating Theresa May for securing a deal to withdraw the UK from the EU that promises to guarantee the rights of citizens and prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The environment secretary, who led the Vote Leave campaign, claimed Theresa May had won and hailed it as a significant personal achievement.

Johnson, who had warned the agreement must work for the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland, added his warm words soon afterwards, saying: Congratulations to PM for her determination in getting today’s deal.

We now aim to forge a deep and special partnership with our European friends and allies while remaining true to the referendum result taking back control of our laws, money and borders for the whole of the UK.

Their praise means May has pulled off the difficult trick of satisfying the Brexitsupporters in her cabinet as well as EU leaders, although many thorny issues are still to be worked out at a later stage.

The prime minister made several concessions, including a divorce bill that officials estimate at £35bn-£39bn and allowing British courts to refer cases about EU citizens to the European court of justice for another eight years.

But Gove insisted this was acceptable as it was time-limited and argued any Brexit supporter should be delighted that the UK would be free from the ECJ, the single market and customs union.

He also defended the promise of full alignment with the EU to ensure no hard border in Northern Ireland if there were no deal, saying it was right for the UK to have the same goals on standards for issues such as the environment.

Other former Vote Leave supporters also gave their seal of approval to the prime minister, including Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, Priti Patel, the former development secretary, and Matthew Elliott, who ran the main leave campaign.

Senior cabinet ministers pushing for a softer Brexit including the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the home secretary, Amber Rudd also expressed their satisfaction that a deal had been done, which should allow the UK and EU to move on to trade talks.

Opposition parties welcomed the progress made but highlighted the time the deal had taken and the short period left to agree on trade before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, responded by saying it was good that trade talks could start but the public needed to know the political price of compromise.

He said: The priority for both sides now must be to agree transitional arrangements on the same basic terms as we have now. That means staying in the single market and a customs union for a time-limited period. We will also need to know the political price of the deal struck and the impact any compromise that has been agreed will have on our future relationship with the EU.

As the talks now move on to a discussion about Britain’s future relationship with the European Union, Theresa May must seriously reflect on her approach to the negotiations so far. We cannot have another year of chaos and confusion or the farcical scenes we saw earlier on in the week that put jobs and the economy at risk.

The SNP leader and first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said the move on to phase two of talks was good “but the devil is in the detail and things now get really tough.

She said she still believed that staying in single market and customs union was the only sensible option and argued any special arrangements for Northern Ireland must be available to other UK nations.

However, some of the most hardline Brexit supporters were still sceptical. Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, said the breakthrough meant it was now time to move on to the next stage of humiliation.

The founder of the Leave.EU movement, Arron Banks, said: It’s confirmed, Theresa May has betrayed the country and the 17.4 million leave voters.

Banks said that “this traitorous, lily-livered embarrassment of a prime minister had overseen the biggest sell-out of this country since Edward Heath took the UK into the EU in 1973.

Full regulatory alignment with the internal market and customs union? We may as well just bend over and allow the European Union to have its way with us for years to come, said Banks.

Pledging to honour financial commitments beyond 2020? Brussels would have been lucky had we agreed to honour them up until March 2019.

Under Theresa May, we are leaving the European Union in name only. If anyone in the Conservative party has any integrity or sense of duty left, we call on them now to save Brexit by triggering a leadership contest. Tory backbenchers, get writing to the 1922 Committee and help save your country. She has got to go.