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Tory conference kicks off with Johnson branding the PM’s Brexit plan ‘deranged’

Theresa May insisted her Chequers plan is not dead today as she lashed out at Boris Johnson for ‘playing politics’ with Brexit.

The Prime Minister said her blueprint was the only one ‘on the table’ that could guarantee a soft Irish border and smooth trade.

The defiant message came after Mr Johnson launched another vicious attack on her proposals – branding them ‘deranged’ and ‘preposterous’.

In one bruising jibe, Mr Johnson pointed out that she was a Remainer during the referendum two years ago – and he urged the government to back ambitious projects like building a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland. 

But Mrs May shot back that her critics were ‘playing politics’ and insisted she is ‘not bluffing’ about driving a hard bargain with the EU.

Speaking during an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to kick off Tory conference, Mrs May said: ‘I do believe in Brexit.’

Earlier, David Davis – who resigned as Brexit Secretary the day before Mr Johnson quit – delivered a putdown to Mr Johnson when asked about his leadership potential. 

Making clear he would back Mrs May in a confidence vote, he said some of the ex-London Mayor’s ideas were little more than ‘good headlines’.

Theresa May defended her ‘ambitious’ Chequers plan during her BBC interview at the Tory conference in Birmingham today (pictured)

Mrs May pictured arriving for her BBC interview today

Boris Johnson pictured at his Oxfordshire home yesterday

Mrs May (pictured left arriving for her BBC interview today) is facing a fresh assault from Boris Johnson (pictured right at his Oxfordshire home yesterday)

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also took aim at Mr Johnson, pointing out that he had stayed as a senior member of the government during the Brexit negotiations.

‘I knew what was being said in December, I’m not sure how the former Foreign Secretary didn’t,’ she said.  

The bitter clashes came as Conservatives gathered in Birmingham for a conference that is set to be dominated by Brexit and questions about Mrs May’s future. 

The premier is facing a desperate struggle to hang on amid grass roots fury about her ‘soft’ approach to cutting ties with the EU, and jostling by leadership rivals. 

In a bid to show her government is about more than negotiations with the EU, the PM has set out plans to crack down on foreigners buying homes and proposals for a nationwide festival in 2022 – the year of the next scheduled general election.

But Mr Johnson ensured the focus is still on his own leadership credentials, using an interview with the Sunday Times to swipe: ‘Unlike the Prime Minister, I campaigned for Brexit.’

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also took aim at Mr Johnson, pointing out during an interview on Sky News' Ridge on Sunday that he had stayed as a senior member of the government during the Brexit negotiations

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also took aim at Mr Johnson, pointing out during an interview on Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday that he had stayed as a senior member of the government during the Brexit negotiations

Tory chairman Brandon Lewis said the party would come together behind Mrs May's plan

Tory chairman Brandon Lewis said the party would come together behind Mrs May’s plan

Mr Johnson – who is only coming to Birmingham for one fringe event on Tuesday – branded Mrs May’s Chequers plan ‘entirely preposterous’.

The blueprint would involve the UK effectively staying in the single market for goods, and collecting some tax on behalf of the EU. 

Setting out her case today, Mrs May said her plan was the only way of keeping smooth trade and ensuring there is no hard Irish border.

She rebuked EU leaders for dismissing the plan, saying she wanted to hear why they objected to the mooted arrangements and denying that they would undermine the single market.

‘This is challenging for the EU because it is an ambitious deal,’ she said.  

But Mrs May ignored several chances to rule out fresh concessions to get a deal.

She told Marr: ‘What I have said to the EU is very clear. They have said they have some concerns with the proposals we have put together.

PM presents Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson with gifts for baby 

Theresa May presented Ruth Davidson with gifts for her baby, which is due in weeks

Theresa May presented Ruth Davidson with gifts for her baby, which is due in weeks

Theresa May presented pregnant Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson with a Downing Street baby grow last night. 

Mrs May and Ms Davidson met to discuss Brexit and other key issues after arriving at the party’s conference in Birmingham.

But despite the high-stakes battle going on with Eurosceptics and the EU, the PM had found time to stock up on some gifts. 

Ms Davidson is less than five weeks away from giving birth to her first child, and has joked that she is the size of a ‘naval frigate’.

She tweeted a video of herself with Mrs May after being handed a No10 branded baby grow, teddy bear and a copy the PM’s favourite book, Swallows and Amazons. 

The book, written in the 1930s, involves two competiting child families playing on an island in the Lake District. 

Ms Davidson said: ‘Had a pre #CPC18 meeting with @Theresa_May to discuss all things conference/Brexit/budget. 

‘Didn’t expect to be surprised with a gift for the wee one at the end (including the PM’s favourite book, Swallows & Amazons, for when they’re older).’

‘Let’s hear what the details of those concerns. If they have counter proposals, let’s hear what those counter proposals are.

‘What is clear is what we have put forward is in the national interest and we did it because what the EU was offering us was unacceptable.’

Asked if she was in a ‘moving’ mode, Mrs May again failed to say she would make no further concessions.

Mrs May said she always knew the negotiations would be ‘tough’ and warned the final stages would be ‘toughest’.

Brexiteers are demanding a looser Canada-style arrangement that would make it easier to strike trade deals elsewhere in the world. There are also signs that some senior figures in Cabinet would prefer a shift in that direction.

Suggesting he may be able to strike a better deal than Mrs May, Mr Johnson told the newspaper: ‘Unlike the Prime Minister, I fought for this, I believe in it, I think it’s the right thing for our country and I think that what is happening now is, alas, not what people were promised in 2016.’

Setting out an alternative policy platform as the Conservative Party conference began in Birmingham, the former cabinet minister said the UK should build a bridge to Ireland and put the HS2 rail line on hold to focus on a high-speed link in the north of England.

And he urged a more ‘Tory’ domestic platform to combat the threat from left-wing Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

‘I think we need to make the case for markets,’ he said.

‘I don’t think we should caper insincerely on socialist territory. You can’t beat Corbyn by becoming Corbyn.’

Despite his obvious positioning, Mr Johnson insisted he was not trying to oust the PM.

‘I am like a loyal and faithful labrador that is relentlessly returning to her an object that she has mistakenly chucked away in the form of her own first instincts about how to do this,’ he said. 

But Mrs May used her own interview with the Sunday Times to insist she is going nowhere. 

Signalling that she intended to remain in Number 10 for years to come, she said: ‘There’s a long-term job to do.’

She added: ‘It’s not just about Brexit, it’s about the domestic agenda as well.

‘I think we’re at a very important and historic moment for the UK. There are real opportunities for the UK outside the European Union.’

Setting out her plans for a festival in post-Brexit Britain, she said: ‘We want to showcase what makes our country great today.

‘We want to capture that spirit for a new generation, celebrate our nation’s diversity and talent, and mark this moment of national renewal with a once-in-a-generation celebration.’

Mrs May also told the Sun on Sunday that she was ‘not bluffing’ when she said ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ when it comes to leaving the EU.

‘I believe that we can get a deal,’ she added. ‘I believe we can get a good deal and that’s what we are working for. But nobody should be in any doubt.’

Mrs May took aim at Tories such as Mr Johnson stirring up the situation, saying they needed to ‘put the country first’. 

‘My message to the Conservative Party is going to be that people voted to leave the EU,’ she said. 

‘I believe it’s a matter of trust in politicians that we deliver on that vote for people. We’re the party that always puts country first and puts the national interest first. And that’s what I want us to be doing.

Mrs May (pictured arriving for the Marr Show today) is facing a tumultuous time at the Tory conference in Birmingham this week

Mrs May (pictured arriving for the Marr Show today) is facing a tumultuous time at the Tory conference in Birmingham this week

Hackers also replaced Michael Gove's image with that of Rupert Murdoch and were able to harvest Boris Johnson's personal information too

Hackers also replaced Michael Gove’s image with that of Rupert Murdoch and were able to harvest Boris Johnson’s personal information too

‘The only proposal on the table at the moment that delivers that is the Chequers plan.’

Mr Davis also took aim at the government’s Brexit strategy, urging a more ‘robust approach’.

In an interview with Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday, Mr Davis admitted that the next couple of months would be ‘really scary’ as the EU tried to force deep concessions from the UK.

But he said the government had to hold its nerve and push for a Canada-style agreement rather than Chequers. 

He also delivered a stinging barb when asked about Mr Johnson’s attractions as a Tory leader.

Ridiculing Mr Johnson’s proposal of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland, he said ‘one of the blights of British politics is politicians having fantastic ideas’. 

David Davis swipes at Boris as he urged PM to beef up Brexit plan 

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis

David Davis swiped at Boris Johnson’s leadership credentials today – but urged Theresa May to change tack on Brexit. 

The ex-Brexit Secretary took aim at the government’s strategy in negotiations with the EU, urging a more ‘robust approach’.

In an interview with Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday, Mr Davis admitted that the next couple of months would be ‘really scary’ as the EU tried to force deep concessions from the UK.

But he said the government had to hold its nerve and push for a Canada-style agreement rather than Chequers. 

He also delivered a stinging barb when asked about Mr Johnson’s attractions as a Tory leader.

Ridiculing Mr Johnson’s proposal of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland, he said ‘one of the blights of British politics is politicians having fantastic ideas’. 

He added: ‘We have a very knockabout friendships, but quite a lot of his ideas are good headlines but not good policies.’  

He added: ‘We have a very knockabout friendships, but quite a lot of his ideas are good headlines but not good policies.’ 

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph overnight, Mr Davis told the Sunday Telegraph the government’s whole approach on Brexit had been wrong.

 ‘The tendency on the part of the Whitehall advice, and the No 10 advice in particular, is to say, what’s negotiable, what’s achievable,’ he told The Sunday Telegraph.

‘That’s not the way you design your policies. You design your policies, then sell them, then amend them if you do have to do that but not the other way around.’ 

He added: ”What would you like me to pay you?’ is not the right approach to a negotiation. I massively simplify, but that’s the equivalent.’

Ms Davidson said: ‘What I think is strange about some of the attacks in the newspapers today is that this is someone who was praising what the prime minister brought home in terms of moving on to the next stage last December, someone who was in one of the great offices of state who was sitting around the Cabinet table, who now says he was in some ways deceived. 

‘She also pointed out that, in his interview, he seemed more keen to talk about his record as London mayor than his record as foreign secretary.

‘He seems to be spending an awful lot of time talking about his London mayorship and very little time, in fact he hasn’t even mentioned the fact that he was foreign secretary for two years and was in the room helping to influence this and, indeed, was praising it as soon ago as December.’ 

Tory chairman Brandon Lewis stopped short of condemning Mr Johnson for his ‘deranged’ jibe, saying ‘Boris has his own style of using language’.

But he told BBC News: ‘I think the party is focused around being behind the prime minister to deliver a good deal for the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union.

‘You would have to ask Boris what he thinks of the language he’s using.’

Under plans to hit property buyers from abroad, people and businesses who do not pay tax in Britain will face a surcharge of between 1 per cent and 3 per cent when they buy a property, with the money funding measures to tackle rough sleeping.

The conference got off to a rough start yesterday when an embarrassing security gaffe in the official app allowed access to the contact details of Cabinet ministers and senior MPs.

Tory chairman Brandon Lewis apologised for the breach of security and the UK’s data watchdog said it would make enquiries about the case.

Activists and journalists heading to the conference discovered the major security problem in the official app which many use to keep track of events.

Mr Lewis said the ‘technical issue’ had been resolved but ‘we are investigating the issue further and apologise for any concern caused’.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said it would be ‘making enquiries with the Conservative Party’ and ‘organisations have a legal duty to keep personal data safe and secure’.

The profiles of former foreign secretary Mr Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove were among those reportedly accessed.

How does Theresa May’s Chequers deal compare with a Canada-style free trade deal?

CHEQUERS

Trade:

Britain would stick to EU rules on goods by adopting a ‘Common rulebook’ with Brussels, but in the services sector.

Theresa May says this would allow the UK strike free trade deals globally, but the scope would be limited by commitments to the EU.

The blueprint should minimise the need for extra checks at the borders – protecting the ‘just in time’ systems used by the car industry to import and export parts.

The UK Parliament could choose to diverge from these EU rules over time.

But there is an admission that this would ‘have consequences’.

Customs:

Britain would set up something called a Facilitated Customs Arrangement.

This would see the UK effectively act as the EU’s taxman – using British officials to collect customs which would then be paid on to the bloc. 

The borders between the UK and EU will be treated as a ‘combined customs territory’.

The UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, but charge EU tariffs and their equivalents for goods which will end up heading into the EU.

Northern Ireland: 

Mrs May says her plan will prevent a hard Irish border, and mean no divergence between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

There would be no need for extra border checks, as tariffs on goods would be the same.

Single market origin rules and regulations would also be sufficiently aligned to avoid infrastructure.

 CANADA-STYLE

Trade: 

Britain would strike a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU, meaning goods can flow both ways without tariffs.

As it is a simple free trade deal, Britain would not be bound by the rules and red tape drawn up in Brussels.

The arrangement would be a relatively clean break from the EU – but would fall far short of full access to the single market.

Eurosceptics have suggested ‘Canada plus’ in key areas such as services and mutual recognition of standards.

The UK would have broad scope to strike free trade deals around the world.

Customs:

Technology would be used to avoid extra customs checks on the borders.

As a result goods travelling into the UK from the EU and vice versa would be tracked and customs paid without extra checks.

The EU has suggested this is ‘magical thinking’. 

Northern Ireland:

The EU says the Canada model would mean border controls are required between Northern Ireland and the Republic to protect the single market and customs union.

It insists Northern Ireland must stay in the bloc’s customs jurisdiction in order to prevent that.

Mrs May has signalled she agrees with the analysis – seemingly the reason she is reluctant to go down this route.

But Brexiteers point out that there is already a tax border between the UK and Ireland, and say technology and trusted trader schemes can avoid the need for more infrastructure. 

 

 

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