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May should use resignations to assert her authority

Terry portrait with tieOn the face of it, the resignations of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis leaveTheresa May’s attempts to build a united government in tatters.

Her opponents will seize upon the chaos within Cabinet and her inability to control unruly elements just days after declaring her top team was now fully supportive of her plans for leaving the EU.

Instead, she should see their departures as an opportunity to cleanse the Cabinet of rabid Brexiteers and build a consensus around those who are supporting her, including business groups which welcomed her Friday deal at Chequers as a first step towards providing clarity.

It is increasingly evident – as this column has argued for the past two years – that there will be no full Brexit and that a compromise (or fudge, if you will) is the only workable end game. In the world of realpolitiks the hardliners who want complete severance from the EU are being forced to realise that this is a route to protectionism and even isolationism.

Britain has to retain some ties with the EU and the bloc will not tolerate a pick and mix deal handing too much influence to the UK as it might tempt other countries to consider taking the same route, leading eventually to the break up of the EU.

Mrs May’s proposals lead us to a soft Brexit, an ideal favoured by business, academia and most institutions that rely on free trade and the movement of labour.

She has appointed housing minister Dominic Raab to succeed Mr Davis. He is another who campaigned for Leave but having been offered and accepted the chance to serve in the Cabinet it must be assumed he has bought into the Chequers plan.

If Mrs May is to avoid a collapse in discipline and even a no-confidence vote she needs to go further and neutralise the hardliners who threaten to undermine her. It is a big risk, but no more so than having opponents in powerful positions who can challenge her authority.

 

 



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