Theresa May last night vowed to use Brexit to ‘raise our horizons beyond our near neighbours’, as she confirmed Britain will leave the EU’s single market and customs union.
The Prime Minister used a speech to a Tory fundraising dinner to set out an upbeat vision of life outside the EU.
Following criticism that her government lacks political direction, Mrs May also vowed to take on Jeremy Corbyn and ‘defeat socialism today as we have defeated it before’. It came amid renewed signs that Tory Remainers are prepared to join forces with Labour in a bid to keep Britain in the customs union.
Theresa May last night vowed to use Brexit to ‘raise our horizons beyond our near neighbours’, as she confirmed Britain will leave the EU’s single market and customs union (pictured, the PM speaking at Westminster Hall today)
Speaking at the Tories’ annual Black and White Ball in London last night, Mrs May said it was essential to leave both the customs union and the single market in order to deliver the benefits of Brexit.
She said Britain would no longer send ‘vast annual subscriptions to the EU’, and would regain control of our borders and laws.
But she added: ‘My vision of the UK outside of the EU is so much more ambitious than that. Taking back control means leaving the single market and customs union, and constructing a completely new trading partnership with the EU – to protect and promote the interests of British businesses trading in Europe, and EU businesses trading here.’
Mrs May said she wanted ‘a completely new alliance with our European partners to advance our interests around the world’.
‘And we will raise our horizons beyond our near neighbours… across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans to nations far and wide… to broaden and deepen our trade and security relationships across the world.’
In an outspoken attack on Labour, she accused Mr Corbyn of pandering to ‘populism’. ‘Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are exploiting populist politics,’ Mrs May said. ‘And what do they offer? Massive renationalisation. Capital flight. A run on the pound. That all leads to a bankrupt Britain.
‘That’s why as Conservatives, we are on a renewed mission to fight and win the battle of ideas and to defeat socialism today as we have defeated it before.’
Tory Remainers yesterday indicated they were willing to team up with Labour to frustrate Mrs May’s plans for a clean break with the EU.
Former ministers Anna Soubry (right) and Kenneth Clarke (left) have tabled an amendment to the Taxation ( Bill which would make it impossible for the Government to leave the customs union unless it could show it had made every effort to keep Britain in
Former ministers Anna Soubry and Kenneth Clarke have tabled an amendment to the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill which would make it impossible for the Government to leave the customs union unless it could show it had made every effort to keep Britain in. It would make it ‘a negotiating objective of Her Majesty’s Government… to maintain the United Kingdom’s participation in the EU customs union’.
If the amendment is passed, Britain could leave the customs union only if ministers presented a report to parliament setting out why it was impossible to remain in. The amendment has been signed by more than 30 MPs, most of them from Labour. Meanwhile, ten Tory MPs yesterday signalled support for the UK joining the European Free Trade Area (Efta), all but one of whose members are part of the EU’s single market.
The moves came as Labour gave the strongest hint yet it will back continued membership of the customs union after Brexit – despite the fact it would make it impossible for the UK to strike independent trade deals.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said Labour ‘would look to remain in a customs union with the EU’ on a permanent basis, adding: ‘I don’t see how the Prime Minister can achieve the frictionless movement she desires without looking at the option of a form of customs union with the EU.’
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said Labour ‘would look to remain in a customs union with the EU’ on a permanent basis
Miss Long-Bailey said it was ‘certainly a possibility’ that remaining in a customs union with the EU would make it impossible for Britain to strike new trade deals around the world.
Mr Clarke said he and Miss Soubry were in talks with Labour MPs about forcing the Government to back continued membership of the customs union. ‘We could defeat the government on this,’ he said, adding: ‘The vast majority of MPs would prefer to stay in the EU.’
Eurosceptic MP John Redwood accused Labour of turning its back on party supporters who backed Brexit. He said remaining in the customs union would fatally undermine Brexit. ‘It is totally unrealistic,’ he said. ‘It would prevent you from realising one of the big gains from Brexit, and I don’t think it’s on offer from the EU in any case.’
Mr Redwood said he remained confident the Government had the numbers to defeat any rebellion. But pro-Remain Tories yesterday lined up to back the idea of remaining in the European Free Trade Area, whose current members comprise Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Former minister Stephen Hammond said he would table amendments to the Trade Bill, which would enable MPs to debate the Efta option and potentially lead to a vote.
Mr Hammond branded Brexit a time of ‘national crisis’, and claimed the Efta approach would satisfy the ‘overwhelming majority’ of the public.
Toff, Tories and Uncle Gary…
They struck up an unlikely friendship in the Australian outback during I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.
And Stanley Johnson and Georgia Toffolo still appeared to be close as they arrived at the Conservative Party’s Black and White Ball together.
They were in high spirits as they made their way into the Natural History Museum last night. Miss Toffolo, 23, nicknamed ‘Toff’ won the reality show in December.
Fresh from his stint in the I’m A Celebrity jungle, Stanley Johnson turned up at the party with winner of the reality TV series, Georgia Toffolo and right, Duchess of Cambridge’s uncle Gary Goldsmith cuts an awkward figure as he arrives
Left, Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg arrives at the ball alone and right, trade minister Liam Fox dons a blue scarf with his tuxedo for the event
In contrast to her red and green jungle fatigues, she wore a sheer embroidered and tiered dress, featuring a plunging neckline.
She carried a fur wrap in her left arm as she strode in front of the former MEP.
Mr Johnson, 77, arrived at the elite fundraiser in a black tuxedo and appeared to have a book tucked in his pocket.
Miss Toffolo had revealed Mr Johnson would be taking her as his guest last Sunday, saying there would be ‘definitely no jagerbombs’.
Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cambridge’s uncle Gary Goldsmith cut a lonely figure as he arrived on the chilly night.
Left, housing minister Sajid Javid beams at cameras as he arrives with his wife Laura, and right, Zac Goldsmith enters the venue
The event is a prominent fixture in the Tory social calendar, with tables known to go for as much as £15,000, and the highlight is its auction, which involves an ‘experience’ event with ministers
The entrepreneur, 52, who was fined £5,000 for knocking his wife Julie-Ann to the ground in October, arrived without her.
The brother of Carole Middleton, known for his sharp dress sense, accessorised his white double-breasted outfit with a black tie decorated with skulls and crossbones.
A prominent fixture in the Conservative social calendar, the ball sees the party’s most generous donors rubbing shoulders with its elite.
Tables have previously sold for as much as £15,000.
MPs: Whitehall’s forecasts as reliable as astrology
Whitehall forecasts suggesting every region of the country would lose out from Brexit were dismissed last night as being ‘as reliable as astrology’.
MPs were shown details from leaked Brexit ‘impact assessments’ yesterday, suggesting the North East would be the biggest loser, with growth up to 16 per cent lower than it would have been over a 15-year period.
London was forecast to be the least affected, with growth in the capital just 3.5 per cent lower than it would have been over the same period, even if Britain left without a deal.
Pro-Remain MPs seized on the forecasts as evidence that Britain should stay in the EU’s single market – or even abandon efforts to leave the EU. But Eurosceptic MPs dismissed the findings.
Former Tory Cabinet minister John Redwood said the figures were ‘complete nonsense’. Democratic Unionist Party Ian Paisley said the analysis, carried out by Whitehall officials was ‘as reliable as astrology’.
The figures were released as Theresa May convened her Brexit ‘war cabinet’ to discuss the shape of the UK’s future relationship with Europe. The three-hour meeting focused on Northern Ireland and immigration and will be followed by another meeting of the 11-strong committee today.
The Prime Minister is expected to summon the group for a final meeting at her country retreat Chequers later this month ahead of the start of trade talks with the EU last month. Today’s meeting is expected to focus on the degree to which the UK should diverge from EU rules after Brexit.
Chancellor Philip Hammond enraged pro-Brexit MPs last month when he said leaving the EU would lead to only ‘very modest’ changes. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is pushing for much more flexibility for Britain to strike out on its own, as is international trade secretary Liam Fox. But Cabinet sources insist ministers are more united than they are portrayed, with even Mr Hammond accepting the case for some divergence to help release the potential of emerging sectors such as artificial intelligence.
The decision to release details of the Whitehall forecasts yesterday followed the leak of the conclusions to the Buzzfeed last week.
The analysis sparked a huge row between ministers and Whitehall mandarins, with Brexit minister Steve Baker saying he had never known the Civil Service get a forecast right. Jacob Rees-Mogg accused the Treasury of ‘fiddling the figures’ in an attempt to change public opinion on Brexit.
Downing Street said the analysis had not been signed off by ministers. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman yesterday pointed out that the study had failed to look at the option of a bespoke trade deal and close customs arrangements, which Mrs May is pursuing.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, the unofficial leader of Tory Remainers, claimed the figures showed leaving without a deal would hurt ‘the poorest and most vulnerable’ in society.