As Sturgeon hopes for new EU deal....
Gove offers May a lifeline with support for ‘right Brexit deal’
Michael Gove: ‘absolutely’ behind the Prime Minister
Michael Gove ended speculation about his future by saying he has confidence in Theresa May and did not intend to resign.
There had been expectations that the Environment Secretary would follow other hardline Brexit supporters out of the cabinet in protest at the EU withdrawal plan.
But he told reporters that he was focused on “getting the right deal in the future”. However, it is understood he rejected an offer to replace Dominic Raab after the Brexit Secretary resigned yesterday morning just hours after the cabinet had reached a “collective” agreement.
Mr Gove is thought to have said he would only accept the job if he could renegotiate the agreement, which did not meet Mrs May’s approval. She will hope that he backs her plan in the first signs of stability in her shaky government.
Asked if he had confidence in Mrs May, Mr Gove said: “I absolutely do.”
He added: “I’m also looking forward to continuing to work with all my government colleagues and all my colleagues in parliament in order to make sure that we get the best future for Britain.
“I think it’s absolutely vital that we focus on getting the right deal in the future and making sure that in the areas that matter so much to the British people we can get the right outcome.”
He did not reply when asked if he was backing Mrs May’s plan or was still pushing for it to be revised.
There are also questions over how long the May-Gove alliance will not last as unhappy Tory MPs close in on gathering the required 48 letters needed for a vote of no confidence in Mrs May which could trigger a leadership election. Earlier reports that the minimum had been sent were later denied.
Sturgeon: ‘EU may renegotiate’
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a business dinner that EU negotiators may choose to renegotiate the UK’s Brexit deal if Theresa May’s ‘agreement’ fails to make it through parliament.
She told a business audience in Glasgow that it was “difficult to see” how the PM could secure enough backing in the Commons for her deal to succeed and that Britain needed to be seeking an alternative plan rather than wait for this one to fail.
Ms Sturgeon said that crashing out of the European Union was not inevitable and it was “time to get something sensible on the table”.
Speaking to the Federation of Small Businesses’ Scotland annual dinner, she said: “People will say the EU is not going to negotiate any other deal, well I don’t suspect they will want to go back to the drawing board.
Nicola Sturgeon: ‘crashing out is not inevitable’ (pic: Terry Murden)
“But if the UK was to come forward with what I think is the sensible option, what we in the Scottish Government have argued all along, that the UK is leaving the EU but is going to stay in the single market, all of it, and the customs union, I think there would be a willingness to negotiate that on the part of the EU.”
She said it may require the Article 50 deadline of March 2019 to be extended “by a little bit”, adding: “Worse things than that believe me have happened.
“So we will continue to argue as hard as we can for that sensible option.”
The SNP leader spoke about her “profound concern” that making special provisions for Northern Ireland as part of the Brexit plan would give that country “unfettered access” to the European market, leaving Scotland at a competitive disadvantage.
“Every business that is thinking of setting up here will be looking at other places as well across the UK, perhaps across Europe.”
She said the Scottish Government and the FSB – together with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Entrepreneurial Scotland and other partners – are organising a small business summit for next spring as “a valuable additional way of helping us to support the small business sector.
“That’s maybe especially important in the year ahead.