September 11 2018
May orders ministers to win over Tory sceptics
A Brexit deal with Brussels can be struck in less than two months’ time, Europe’s chief negotiator said yesterday, as Theresa May sent her ministers on a final drive to sell Chequers to her divided party.
Amid signs of some optimism on both sides of the Channel, Michel Barnier said that a withdrawal deal was “possible” within six to eight weeks, causing a surge in the pound’s value.
With claims yesterday, however, that up to 80 Tory MPs would be prepared to vote down a deal based on the Chequers agreement, Downing Street is to begin a concerted drive to reduce opposition.
The prime minister has instructed every cabinet minister to tour the country before the Conservative Party conference this month to hammer home the message that Chequers is the “only deal” on the table.
Each minister has been told to visit at least two constituency associations in the next two weeks to make the case for Mrs May’s strategy and counter the campaign led by Boris Johnson to “chuck Chequers”.
Privately, Tory aides working across Whitehall have been briefed by No 10 that Mr Barnier’s position on Chequers has shifted in recent weeks. They have been told to prepare for a vote on a final deal by Christmas, with senior government figures reporting that Tory whips were “very confident” that the vote would pass. However, with Mrs May’s majority standing at 13 and Labour expected to oppose the deal, Brexiteers could scupper the plans.