UK's Brexit rivals trade insults in aftermath of bruising battle

Theresa May is in Brussels to try and gain concessions from EU leaders over the Irish backstop

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Theresa May’s underwhelming victory in a confidence vote over her party leadership initially steadied the pound but exposed unbridgeable Conservative chasms.

Ministers rallied behind Mrs May as she headed to Brussels and lambasted the European Research Group (ERG), made up of hard-line Tory party members that pushed for a confidence vote in Mrs May.

After a turbulent week for the pound, it enjoyed a relatively stable Thursday morning against the dollar but then dropped 0.04 per cent to $1.26235 by 15.45 GMT. It was more successful against the Euro rising 0.29 per cent to 1.1131 by 15.45 GMT.

Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, told Sky News the prime minister was “fighting day and night” to get an agreement deal with the EU that resolved the highly controversial backstop issue to prevent a hard Irish Brexit.

Dominic Raab, who quit the same job last month and is widely tipped by Brexiteers as a future prime minister, said it was “very difficult to see how this PM can lead us forward” but conceded the party would have to support Mrs May as “best we can”.

AFP reported that that the other 27 EU countries had drawn up a statement intended to reduce fears over the Brexit to increase the chances the deal would pass through parliament.

However, any potential major concessions would only be made in January. According to the statement the backstop “would only be in place for a short period and only as long as strictly necessary.” This would be unlikely to appease hardliners because it is not legally binding.

ERG chairman and staunch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who describe the vote result as “very bad,” came under particular fierce criticism. The ERG’s headquarters have been referred to as the ‘killing zone,’ a nickname its supporters reject.

Middle East minister Alistair Burt, in reference to the ERG, tweeted: “They never, ever stop. Votes against them, letters going in late – nothing matters to ERG. After the apocalypse, all that will be left will be ants and Tory MPs complaining about Europe and their leader.

Former Conservative leader and Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith said the prime minister needed to go to Brussels and “resolve” the backstop. He told Sky News she must tell the EU “If you want a deal you’d better well step up to the plate.”


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EU leaders have repeatedly said this week the current exit plan was the best available and would not be changed. They will now meet with Mrs May at the European Council.

Mrs May won the confidence vote with a majority of 83, but observers were shocked to see 117 not backing her. However, as pointed out by minister Chris Grayling, this was more than the number who backed Mrs May during the 2016 Conservative party leadership contest.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond came under fire when described Brexiteers as “extremists.” A major fear of so-called hard Brexit supporters is the current chaos increases the change of the Labour party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn coming into government.