Brexit: EU’s Tusk tells May to ‘get down to business’

Virginia Carson
October 8, 2018

Impatient EU leaders had grudgingly allowed time for the British prime minister to win over her own Conservative Party conference this week.

The prime minister is also preparing new proposals on a plan B to keep the frontier open if and until a new trade deal could be agreed with the EU.

Part of this appeal to the masses involved a shout-out to a diverse range of high-profile Conservatives: first, was Sajid Javid, who has just devised a plan to restrict immigration to all but the most skilled workers, and was almost in tears when May said "If your mum and dad arrived from Pakistan on a plane, you can become Home Secretary.' Then came a nod to Esther McVey, who used her own conference speech to say she was a 'Barnardo's child" as May said 'If you spent time in care, you can sit in the cabinet.' LGBTQ+ rights were also bigged up via the mention of Ruth Davidson, 'If you're pregnant with your first child and engaged to your girlfriend, you could be the first minister of Scotland'.

'And our message to them must be this - we get it.

Mrs May earlier suffered harsh criticism from ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who told a packed conference hall she had to "chuck Chequers" - her post-Brexit blueprint. In a fiery speech at the conference on Tuesday, the former Cabinet minister who had resigned over May's Brexit strategy said "Chequers is a cheat", which would “escalate the sense of mistrust” people have about politicians.

Dancing onto the stage in the city of Birmingham to Abba's Dancing Queen and a standing ovation, Mrs May poked fun at herself after her dance moves were mocked on a trip to Africa and after last year's conference when her speech was disrupted by a coughing fit, a stage intruder and a disintegrating set. As she put it: "We need to come together now".

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But Wednesday's speech seemed to have gone down well among the party faithful.

"I'm very keen to see an agreement concluded by November if at all possible", Vardakar said.

Just before May's own speech on Wednesday, Conservative party MP James Duddridge, a key Johnson ally, announced that he had submitted a letter to the party's backbench 1922 Committee calling for a party leadership contest. Firmness of goal, clarity and conviction - European Union friends do not underestimate!

As a foretaste of her intention to loosen public spending controls, the prime minister announced that local authorities would be able to borrow billions of pounds more for housebuilding.

"I was a party leader myself for 15 years and I know what the rules of party politics are, but now that the Tory party conference is over we should get down to business", Tusk declared. "There must be no return", she said.

"But my job as prime minister is to do what I believe to be in the national interest".

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In a nod to voters who are exhausted of stagnating wages and spending cuts, May said that from next year the government would end the austerity policies introduced after the 2008 global financial crisis and put more money into public services. "First, honouring the result of the referendum. and secondly, to seek a good trading and security relationship with our neighbours after we have left".

The PM is expected to make major concessions in new proposals to the European Union that could delay Brexit for years and restrict Britain's ability to strike trade deals.

And her Conservative government means hers, as she took a pop at everyone, even those in her own ranks, who aren't convinced by Brexit.

"There can be no new regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom", Mr Dodds told the Peston show.

In her speech, Mrs May stuck to her plan, called the Chequers proposal after her country residence where she hashed out the proposals in July. "It delivers the referendum, it keeps faith with the British people", she said.

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