LEADING Brexiteer Michael Gove has urged Tories to get behind Theresa May’s Chequers plan — saying a future prime minister could renegotiate once Britain is no longer in the EU.
The environment secretary said rebels worried that the strategy would keep Britain too closely tied to Brussels should concentrate more on getting the divorce deal agreed.
He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘There’s one critical thing — a future prime minister could always choose to alter the relationship between Britain and the EU. But the Chequers approach is the right one for now because we have got to respect the public vote and make sure we take advantage of the opportunities of being outside the EU.’
Some critics said the comments suggested Mr Gove would be ready to back efforts to get Mrs May out of Downing Street once Brexit was achieved.
Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said it was ‘hypocrisy’ from the minister, who opposed David Cameron in the referendum and later withdrew backing for Boris Johnson becoming PM.
‘He must be running out of daggers. First Cameron, then Boris, now May. If he gets his way, it’ll be the country next,’ Mr Brake said.
However, support from Mr Gove could help Mrs May see off attempts by Tory rebels to oust her in favour of Mr Johnson before Brexit is secured.
Mr Johnson, meanwhile, last night stepped up his attack on the Chequers plan, claiming it would result in ‘a spectacular political car crash’.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said: ‘If the Brexit negotiations continue on this path they will end, I am afraid, in a spectacular political car crash.’ People would subsequently wonder: ‘How did Britain end up upside down in the ditch with all four wheels spinning lazily in the air?’ he added.
He also described plans for the Ireland border as ‘a monstrosity that wipes out our sovereignty’.
His comments come as Mrs May gave BBC Panorama viewers a look at life inside her country residence Chequers — where the strategy was back in July.
The prime minister was filmed with her red despatch box beside her on the sofa as she watched ITV’s The Chase with husband Philip. In the Panorama Brexit special, to be aired tonight on BBC1, she admits to interviewer Nick Robinson she is ‘irritated’ by talk that her leadership is in doubt.
She says she remains the ‘bloody difficult woman’ Tory veteran Ken Clarke once branded her — and will show it ‘when the time is right’.
‘This debate is not about my future, this debate is about the future of the people of the UK — that’s what I’m focused on,’ she said. Mr Johnson’s earlier remark that Chequers was like putting Britain in a ‘suicide vest’ was ‘completely inappropriate,’ she added.