May ir­ri­tated by spec­u­la­tion over lead­er­ship con­test

Bri­tish PM hits out at John­son as UK marks six months un­til Brexit

The Straits Times - - WORLD -

LON­DON Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said yes­ter­day that she was ir­ri­tated by spec­u­la­tion about a lead­er­ship con­test as she slammed for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son, seen as her most likely chal­lenger.

The cen­tre-right Con­ser­va­tive Party’s leader said she was fo­cused on se­cur­ing a Brexit deal rather than her own fu­ture, in a BBC tele­vi­sion in­ter­view mark­ing the six­month countdown to Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union.

Mrs May blasted Mr John­son for us­ing “com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate” lan­guage when he de­scribed her Brexit blue­print as putting Bri­tain in a “sui­cide vest”.

Asked about her plans to stay in the job, the Prime Min­is­ter said: “I get a lit­tle bit ir­ri­tated but this de­bate is not about my fu­ture – this de­bate is about the fu­ture of the peo­ple of the UK and the fu­ture of the United King­dom. That’s what I’m fo­cused on and that’s what we should all be fo­cused on.”

The leader added that it was im­por­tant to en­sure “we get that good deal from the Euro­pean Union which is good for peo­ple in the UK, wher­ever they live in the UK”.

Mr John­son, who quit the Cab­i­net over Mrs May’s pro­pos­als to keep Bri­tain close to the EU on trade, is the book­mak­ers’ favourite to suc­ceed her, ahead of In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sa­jid Javid, eu­roscep­tic back­bench leader Ja­cob Rees-Mogg, En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Michael Gove and For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt.

Mrs May’s Con­ser­va­tive mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment con­tains a size­able bloc of hard­core Brex­i­teers headed by Mr Rees-Mogg and would likely need the sup­port of the left-wing main op­po­si­tion Labour Party, or a chunk of their MPs, to get her Brexit pro­pos­als through Par­lia­ment.

Mr Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, said any EU deal must meet Labour’s key Brexit tests, which in­clude de­liv­er­ing the “ex­act same ben­e­fits” as Bri­tain cur­rently has in­side the sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union, to win their sup­port.

In a let­ter pub­lished by Bri­tain’s The Sun­day Times, he said that they also could not back a loosely worded agree­ment. “A vague po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion would not meet those tests. Labour will not – and can­not – vote for a blind Brexit.”

Mean­while, Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan added his weight to calls for a sec­ond Brexit ref­er­en­dum on the out­come of Bri­tain’s EU de­par­ture ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Writ­ing in The Ob­server news­pa­per, he said Bri­tain faces ei­ther a bad Brexit deal or no deal.

“They are both in­cred­i­bly risky and I don’t be­lieve Theresa May has the man­date to gam­ble so fla­grantly with the Bri­tish econ­omy and peo­ple’s liveli­hoods,” he wrote.

The Labour politi­cian said vot­ers need to be given a new ref­er­en­dum. “This means a pub­lic vote on any Brexit deal ob­tained by the gov­ern­ment, or a vote on a no-deal Brexit if one is not se­cured, along­side the op­tion of stay­ing in the EU,” he wrote.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May slammed for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son for us­ing “com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate” lan­guage over her Brexit plan.

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