Lead­som hopes to be­come Bri­tain’s PM

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - ELIZ­A­BETH PIPE REUTERS

LONDON — An­drea Lead­som be­lieves her pitch for a sen­si­ble Brexit will not only break the im­passe over Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union but also open the door to Down­ing Street for her to be­come prime min­is­ter.

One of 10 con­tenders to re­place Theresa May, the for­mer leader of Bri­tain’s lower house of par­lia­ment says she has learned from her first at­tempt to win the top po­lit­i­cal job in 2016. Then, a misjudged com­ment about how be­ing a mother bet­ter equipped her for the role helped kill off her cam­paign.

Lead­som is po­si­tion­ing her­self as “an op­ti­mistic yet re­al­is­tic Brex­i­teer.” Mak­ing Bri­tain’s EU de­par­ture on Oct. 31 a “hard, red line,” she is push­ing a so-called “man­aged Brexit” with leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect EU cit­i­zens, Bri­tish ter­ri­tory Gi­bral­tar and to pro­tect trade in goods.

It pits her against the other Brexit-sup­port­ing can­di­dates for the lead­er­ship of the gov­ern­ing Con­ser­va­tive Party, with fa­vorite Boris John­son also press­ing hard to leave at the end of Oc­to­ber but with or with­out an agree­ment with the bloc.

For crit­ics, it seems fan­ci­ful. The EU has cast doubt on agree­ing piece­meal deals over an over­all Brexit agree­ment and Bri­tain’s par­lia­ment has shown lit­tle de­sire to tread so close to what many fear is lit­tle more than a no deal de­par­ture.

But Lead­som, 56, who is third fa­vorite to win the con­test ac­cord­ing to book­mak­ers, has few doubts.

CON­FI­DENT

“I’m in­cred­i­bly con­fi­dent be­cause what I’m talk­ing about is in­tro­duc­ing two bills to par­lia­ment … that con­tain the re­ally sen­si­ble mea­sures that are so clearly in the UK’s in­ter­ests and the EU’s in­ter­ests,” Lead­som told Reuters.

“So any­body who says ‘Oh well you just won’t get it through, no one will vote for it’, that’s to as­sume that … politi­cians in the EU and par­lia­men­tar­i­ans in the UK lit­er­ally don’t want to help their fel­low man.”

Al­most three years since vot­ing to leave the EU, Bri­tain is no clearer on how, when or even whether Brexit will hap­pen. Par­lia­ment has re­jected a deal ne­go­ti­ated with the EU three times and there is lit­tle agree­ment among law­mak­ers on Brexit.

All the con­tenders vy­ing to re­place May have dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions to the im­passe, but Lead­som said her ex­pe­ri­ence manag­ing the gov­ern­ment’s busi­ness in par­lia­ment would give her the edge in forc­ing politi­cians to move from their in­creas­ingly en­trenched po­si­tions.

She has her work cut out. Many pro-Brexit Con­ser­va­tives are re­luc­tant to back what they call her Brexit-lite so­lu­tion while EU sup­port­ers in the party see it as lit­tle more than no deal.

At a pri­vate hus­tings on Mon­day, one Con­ser­va­tive law­maker said her pitch was “heard politely.”

But promis­ing not to with­draw this time round from the con­test after she handed the lead­er­ship to May in 2016, Lead­som said she would tackle par­lia­ment and sug­gested she might over­ride par­lia­ment if it be­comes in­tractable.

“The le­gal de­fault po­si­tion is we leave the EU on the 31st of Oc­to­ber with­out any ar­range­ments in place, so if par­lia­ment lit­er­ally wanted to vote down that we re­solve the un­cer­tainty for cit­i­zens … then that is a choice for par­lia­ment,” she said.

“But in all cir­cum­stances we do have to leave the Euro­pean Union and move on so we can start talk­ing about some of the amaz­ing fu­ture that lies ahead of us.”

HENRY NI­CHOLS REUTERS

Anti-Brexit pro­tester Steve Bray demon­strates at Down­ing Street in London Tues­day. •

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