- Exclusive: The race to succeed Theresa May turns bitter after one of the leading candidates is accused of using plans for a no-deal Brexit to boost her Conservative party leadership credentials.
- Brexiteers in May’s Cabinet are pushing her to accept a so-called “managed no deal” Brexit.
- Penny Mordaunt, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox will lead calls for the prime minister to negotiate a bare bones divorce deal with the EU covering just a handful of areas.
- However, the International Development Secretary Mordaunt is accused by rivals of using the plans to boost her own leadership chances.
- “She has very much kept quiet to see how the dust settles, and will then latch on to the best alternative idea that comes along,” one Cabinet source told Business Insider.
- Downing Street sources shoot down the “managed no deal” plans.
LONDON – Leading Brexiteers in Theresa May’s Cabinet are engaged in a bitter fight over plans for a so-called “managed no deal” Brexit, as the race to succeed May as prime minister breaks out into the open.
Senior Brexiteer ministers in May’s government – Penny Mordaunt, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox – are set to collectively make the case for a so-called “managed no deal” when Cabinet meets on Tuesday morning.
However, Mordaunt’s rivals has accused her of”hypocrisy and dishonesty” over her support for the hard Brexit plans.
The International Development Secretary is reportedly set to outline her vision of a “managed no deal,” in which the UK would supposedly exit the EU without a trade deal at the end of a two-year transition period but have individual agreements with Brussels covering key areas, like aviation and citizens rights.
She set out the plan in more detail on Monday night, describing it is a “managed glidepath” for the UK out of the EU.
Now Pro-Brexit sources in May’s Cabinet have accused Mordaunt of “Brexit indecisiveness” and using “managed no deal” to boost her leadership credentials with an overwhelmingly pro-Brexit Conservative party membership.
“She [Mordaunt] has very much kept quiet to see how the dust settles, and will then latch on to the best alternative idea that comes along,” an ally a leading Cabinet Brexiteer told Business Insider.
They added that Mordaunt was guilty of “hypocrisy and dishonesty” on the issue.
There has been suspicion within Westminster’s pro-Leave circles for weeks that Mordaunt has been preparing a bid to succeed May once she steps down as Tory leader and prime minister.
There was speculation that Toby Baxendale, a businessman who set up the Cobden Centre radical free market think tank with ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, was helping Mordaunt prepare a potential leadership bid. Baxendale worked on Leadsom’s unsuccessful campaign to succeed David Cameron as prime minister in 2016.
Friends of Baxendale deny that he is working with Mordaunt.
Government sources on Monday poured cold water over the “managed no deal” proposal after Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK could “flourish and prosper” without a full divorce deal.
A Downing Street source told Business Insider that the EU “have held firm in not discussing any kind of side deals.”
They added that ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who resigned last month over May’s Brexit deal, had tried to push plans for such an arrangement with the EU but chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier “came down very hard on him.”
They also added that even a bare bones Withdrawal Agreement would need to come with a backstop for the island of Ireland, saying: “If Parliament hates the backstop, then why would they not hate it in a managed deal?”
The prime minister is under pressure from all sides of her Cabinet to consider alternatives to her Brexit deal with MPs almost certain to vote it down when the meaningful vote takes place next month.
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