Published: Sun, October 07, 2018
Finance | By Kristine Clayton

Theresa May facing enormous challenge as Brexit deadline looms

Theresa May facing enormous challenge as Brexit deadline looms

All eyes may be on Theresa May as she addresses the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Wednesday - but numerous paper's column inches are dedicated to a fellow top Tory: Boris Johnson. Well, optics-wise, there was very little coughing, and of course, she danced onto the stage to the tune of ABBA's Dancing Queen, laughing at herself in a neat self-referential bid to show the personality she's always been accused of lacking.

May's unexpectedly disarming conference speech followed, exhorting the party to come together, or Brexit is at risk. "We can not outsource our conscience to the Kremlin", she stated.

He said: "I don't think we owe a single penny to the EU". If we stick together and hold our nerve, I know we can get a deal that delivers for Britain'.

And in another call for unity, she attacked the main opposition Labour Party, saying their policies, including the renationalisation of mail, rail and utilities, would mean increased taxes and drive away business.

"Our mission as Conservatives must be to show them that we can build an economy that does".

Referring to those comments Thursday, O'Neill told CNBC that the "slightly unfortunate words" were "unbecoming of a chair of Chatham House", but said politicians like Hunt and Johnson were just trying to appeal to pro-Brexit members of the Conservative Party.

One however has submitted a letter of no confidence in his leader.

"So why say May's speech slightly surprised me in a positive sense is that somebody's obviously got her antenna going again for her to be sensitive to that".

London Mayor Sadiq Khan's post-Brexit "London is Open" campaign was also bastardised in May's speech when she declared: 'Britain under my Conservative government is open for business'.

Wednesday's speech was considerably smoother.

Mrs May - who revealed the freeze on fuel duty will continue - said the era of austerity had ended now that the national debt was falling for the "first time in a generation".

The Prime Minister returned the favour by namechecking her opponent seven times.

May and her team are braced for a gruelling set of discussions: with EU leaders, with her parliamentary partners in the DUP, and with the European Commission, all the while withstanding ferocious friendly fire.

She told the BBC, she was a bit cross with Johnson but only because his alternative Brexit proposals would, she said, tear up the United Kingdom by forcing Northern Ireland to operate separately from the rest of the UK.

INSKEEP: Frank, I suppose it must seem to be in Britain's national interest since she's demanding such good terms that there's no indication she can get them.

"The country wants, seemingly, something different", O'Neill said.

"The EU is adamant that you can't have the free movement of goods without accepting EU workers - that would break the rules of the club", NPR's Frank Langfitt explains.

Johnson said if the right deal with Brussels was agreed it could be win-win for both sides of the Channel.

She attacked Corbyn personally over his handling of Labour's anti-Semitism crisis and his response to the Salisbury chemical weapons attack, when he appeared to cast doubt on the intelligence services' assessment that Russian Federation was behind it.

In her speech, Mrs May stuck to her plan, called the Chequers proposal after her country residence where she hashed out the proposals in July. This is not taking back control: "this is forfeiting control", he said.

With just six months before Britain is due to exit the European Union, she has so far weathered the Brexit storm, shrugging off a barnstorming speech by her ex-foreign minister Boris Johnson that did little to hide his leadership ambitions.

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