Peers attack Theresa May’s post-Brexit customs plan over lack of clarity
Matt Foster//Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit plan is “dead as a dodo”, according to one of her allies.
Sir Mike Penning – who worked with the Prime Minister at the Home Office and helped orchestrate her 2016 leadership campaign – accused the Prime Minister of a “massive insult” by asking Tory MPs to back it.
He told The Telegraph: “She is playing a game of Russian Roulette with the country which is frankly an insult to the referendum result and all those people who voted, no matter how they voted.
“To say to the likes of myself: ‘It’s Chequers or a hard Brexit’. It’s like making us sit on the naughty step at school.”
His intervention is significant because he has previously resisted the temptation to publicly criticise Mrs May, despite being angered at her decision to sack him from the frontbench in a reshuffle last year.
The intervention from the previously-loyal backbencher – who also confirmed he was joining the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers – came as the Prime Minister tried to convince EU leaders to swing behind her proposals over dinner in Salzburg.
Dining on wiener schnitzel with potatoes ahead of sit-down meetings today, Mrs May called on the 27 EU leaders to “respond in kind” to what she called the “serious and workable” Chequers proposals.
And she tried to scotch speculation in Brussels that the UK could hold a second referendum, saying: “We all recognise that time is short but delaying or extending these negotiations is not an option.
“I know that for many of you Brexit is not something you want – but it is important to be clear there will be no second referendum.”
But Sir Mike urged the Prime Minister to call EU’s bluff, saying the bloc would “make a deal at the last minute – that’s how they’ve always operated”.
He said: “We’re just seeing this all from one end of a telescope and she needs to immediately now turn that telescope around. Because if she comes back with Chequers it’s dead as a dodo.”
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab last night conceded that the Chequers proposals – which have enraged Eurosceptics with calls for a free-trade area for goods governed by a “common rulebook” – were not “perfect”.
He told LBC: “It may not be perfect, but it’s the most credible plan.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk meanwhile called for Mrs May’s Brexit pitch to be “reworked and further negotiated” before a final deal can be agreed, but welcomed a “positive evolution” in the UK’s stance in recent months.
Announcing an emergency summit on the UK’s departure for mid-November, he warned: “There is more hope but there is surely less and less time, every day left we must use for talks.”