EX­POSED Men­ac­ing se­cret memo to PM dic­tat­ing terms for a hard Brexit trig­gers new Cabi­net rift

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Front Page - By Si­mon Wal­ters and Glen Owen

THERESA MAY is ef­fec­tively be­ing held to ran­som over Brexit by Boris John­son and Michael Gove, a bomb­shell leaked let­ter re­veals.

The Cabi­net heavy­weights made a se­ries of veiled threats in a se­cret mis­sive to the Prime Min­is­ter –

which con­tained blunt in­struc­tions on how she should de­liver the ‘hard Brexit’ they de­mand.

The in­cred­i­ble let­ter also con­tains the sin­is­ter-sound­ing in­struc­tion that Mrs May should make rebel Cabi­net Min­is­ters toe their line by ‘clar­i­fy­ing their minds’.

It lays bare Cabi­net ten­sions and will fuel claims that the Brexit stance of Mrs May – who sup­ported the Re­main cam­paign dur­ing the EU ref­er­en­dum – is be­ing dic­tated by Mr Gove and Mr John­son.

One se­nior Gov­ern­ment fig­ure, who has seen the let­ter, said it showed that Foreign Sec­re­tary John­son and En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Gove had con­ducted a ‘soft coup’ and that Mrs May was ‘their Down­ing Street hostage’.

It comes amid con­tin­u­ing spec­u­la­tion of a lead­er­ship chal­lenge to Mrs May, who has strug­gled to im­pose her author­ity since the botched Gen­eral Elec­tion.

In the mis­sive, the Brexit cheer­lead­ers:

In­struct the em­bat­tled Prime Min­is­ter in blunt terms to ‘un­der­line her re­solve’ to achieve a to­tal break with Brus­sels;

Ac­cuse Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond, who wants a soft Brexit, of not show­ing ‘suf­fi­cient en­ergy’ and let­ting the EU hold Bri­tain ‘over a bar­rel’ by re­fus­ing to plan for the pos­si­bil­ity Bri­tain walks away from talks with no deal on trade re­la­tions;

Lec­ture the Prime Min­is­ter on how to run ‘your gov­ern­ment’ – and say it is vi­tal for her to dis­play more ‘con­fi­dence’;

Tell her to ‘ar­tic­u­late the fol­low­ing’ – and then set out their own hard Brexit man­i­festo – in­clud­ing nam­ing June 30, 2021, as the fixed end of Bri­tain’s tran­si­tion pe­riod af­ter we leave the EU in March 2019.

Gov­ern­ment in­sid­ers say the let­ter, the con­tents of which have been made known to The Mail on Sun­day, was sent last month. It will send shock­waves around the Gov­ern­ment.

A well-placed source said it sug­gested Mr Gove and Mr John­son were run­ning what was tan­ta­mount to a ‘hard Brexit cell’ in­side the Cabi­net.

The cloak-and-dag­ger na­ture of the ul­ti­ma­tum is il­lus­trated by the James Bond-style in­struc­tion that the let­ter is ‘for your and Gavin’s eyes only’ – a ref­er­ence to Mrs May’s No10 chief of staff, the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive MP Gavin Bar­well. It is un­der­stood the let­ter was de­liv­ered to him by hand by Mr John­son. But the pair could face a back­lash for ap­pear­ing to or­der her not to show it to other Cabi­net Min­is­ters or White­hall man­darins.

The let­ter in­cludes the Or­wellianthreat to ‘clar­ify the minds’ of rebel Min­is­ters and make them ‘in­ter­nalise the logic’ of the John­son-Gove ap­proach to the EU. In an­other jibe at Min­is­ters such as Mr Ham­mond who op­posed leav­ing the EU, it says Mrs May must en­sure all Cabi­net mem­bers take the same tough line on Brexit – ‘what­ever their orig­i­nal po­si­tions dur­ing the ref­er­en­dum’.

They should not even be al­lowed to express doubts about the fi­nal out­come of Brexit be­hind closed doors and must echo Mrs May’s stance word for word ‘pub­licly and pri­vately,’ they ar­gue. And the ‘White­hall ma­chine’ and its ‘os­si­fied ways of work­ing’ can­not be ‘left to its own de­vices’ to de­liver Brexit. New high-pow­ered staff are needed to ‘ap­ply grit to the oys­ter’.

The tone of the let­ter is as shock­ing as its con­tents. It ranges from qui­etly men­ac­ing to in­gra­ti­at­ing flat­tery, such as prais­ing how Mrs

May’s ‘ex­cel­lent speech in Florence landed well’.

Gov­ern­ment sources be­lieve the let­ter may have been drawn up with help from the pro-Brexit Euro­pean Re­form Group of Tory MPs and the Le­ga­tum In­sti­tute think-tank.

The let­ter says Mrs May’s ‘sen­si­ble prag­ma­tism’ is no ex­cuse for wa­ter­ing down Brexit – and that to ‘counter those who wish to frus­trate that end, there are ways of un­der­lin­ing your re­solve’.

Mr John­son and Mr Gove do not name Mr Ham­mond but re­fer to his com­ment that Bri­tain had to en­gage in ‘sin­cere co-op­er­a­tion’ with the EU, say­ing such a stance would ‘leave us over a bar­rel’.

The pair also warn Mrs May to rein in Mr Ham­mond over claims he re­fuses to spend pub­lic money plan­ning for a ‘no deal’ out­come.

Clearly, both is­sues still ran­kle with Mr John­son and Mr Gove, who write: ‘We are pro­foundly wor­ried that in some parts of Gov­ern­ment the current prepa­ra­tions are not pro­ceed­ing with anything like suf­fi­cient en­ergy… We all want you to push your agenda for­ward with con­fi­dence and have your Gov­ern­ment ar­tic­u­late the fol­low­ing’ – and set out their own Brexit man­i­festo.

The let­ter ends with a con­spir­a­to­rial of­fer by the pair to meet Mrs May to dis­cuss her re­sponse ‘as and when you con­sider wise’.

A No10 spokesman said: ‘We do not com­ment on leaks.’ Asked why Mr John­son and Mr Gove had by­passed White­hall of­fi­cials, the spokesman added: ‘It is com­mon prac­tice un­der gov­ern­ments of all colours for Cabi­net Min­is­ters to of­fer ad­vice and views to the PM.’

Mr John­son and Mr Gove de­clined to com­ment.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May UN­DER THE COSH:

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