Theresa May has sought to win her party’s trust by showing she can be more collegiate and humble. “I got us into this mess and I’ll get us out of it,” she told backbenchers last night in a well-received address. Speaking after John Bercow’s election as Speaker in the Commons this afternoon, the Prime Minister quipped: “ At least someone got a landslide”. The election result has seen her reach out to the Democratic Unionist Party in order to secure a majority in the Commons, provoking outrage from Left-wingers. Sir John Major has now joined the chorus of critics by warning that a deal could undermine the “fragile” Northern Ireland peace process.
Meanwhile, the Government is gearing up to resume talks on Britain’s terms of exit from the European Union. What will ministers be driving for? Their priorities may be about to be moderated, as we report that some of the most senior members of Theresa May’s team have been discussing how to force the Prime Minister to make concessions on immigration, the customs union and the single market amid talk of a cross-party Brexit Commission to agree common ground. “If “Brexit means Brexit” is transformed, via a cross-party alliance, into “Brexit means not very much change at all”, then the ensuing Conservative civil war will not only provide top entertainment, but would almost certainly make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister within two years,” Tom Harris warns.
Mrs May has already been shaking up her ministerial Brexit team. David Davis was swiftly re-confirmed as its head, while David Jones – a robust Brexiteer – was removed. Might this have something to do with him telling the BBC that it was “ impossible to tell” how long the Prime Minister had left in her job? He has been replaced by Steve Baker, a prominent backbench Brexiteer as chair of the European Research Group. He could be the canary in the Brexit coal mine: indicating to Eurosceptic backbenchers that there is betrayal in the air if he resigns from Government. What will keep him happy? Just before his appointment, he outlined his desire on Twitter for “the “softest” exit consistent with actually leaving and controlling laws, money, borders and trade and that means delivering on the white paper so the Department for International Trade can get on with improving UK and global trade.”
The Prime Minister will be picking up on her European diplomacy this evening when she visits Paris tonight (” just as Margaret Thatcher did before her fall“, French press mischievously note). She will be dining with Emmanuel Macron and then heading with him to the Stade de France to watch the friendly between France and England. Our Europe editor Peter Foster has some advice for Mrs May on how she can ensure her meeting with the French president is just as friendly. “Europe is digging in, but the reality is that if Britain really wants a ‘jobs first’ Brexit, the EU side ultimately has a vested interest in seeking for a more co-operative deal, but that will require honestly on the UK side about the trade-offs involved,” he concludes. “Mrs May cannot offer negotiating specifics at the moment – which, of course, is one of the biggest arguments for her stepping down sooner, rather than later – but she can signal a fundamental change of tone”.
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