Devolution plans unveiled as part of 'road to Brexit' PR blitz

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Theresa May’s government will try to seize back the initiative on Brexit with a series of speeches setting out its plans over the next two weeks.

They will include the first major intervention by the new Cabinet Office minister David Lidington on new powers for devolved administrations, in a bid to break the deadlock over an alleged ‘power grab’ in Brexit legislation.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will kick off the campaign to set out the ‘road to Brexit’ with a speech on Wednesday calling for national unity and setting out his vision of a “buccaneering” future for the UK.

At the Munich security conference on Saturday, the Prime Minister will present plans for a deep partnership with the EU on defence.

Mr Lidington will present his ideas the following week, along with Brexiteer ministers David Davis and Liam Fox, but cabinet figure who campaigned for Remain, including Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond, will not be making speeches.

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Mrs May will then round off the process with another address setting out how she sees the overall relationship between Britain and Brussels after withdrawal.

Mr Lidington’s speech will come at a critical time for talks between the UK and devolved governments as they seek to avoid a constitutional crisis over new powers after Brexit.

He will set out his plans with just weeks to go to get a deal that will secure Holyrood’s consent for the EU Withdrawal Bill, currently before the House of Lords.

Scottish Government sources have denied claims that a deal is imminent, and reports suggest senior Scottish Tories believe opposition from other Whitehall departments to increasing devolved powers has held up a deal.

One source told the Sunday Times that “officials believe there has already been a bit too much devolution”.

The public relations blitz comes after a rocky few weeks for the government in which Cabinet tensions over Brexit have returned to the surface.

It is being seen as an attempt to try and set the tone in the run-up to another round of tough negotiations with Brussels over a transition deal.

As well as the speeches, members of the Cabinet's Brexit sub-committee will attend an "away day" summit at the Prime Minister's country residence Chequers.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier pointedly complained last week that there were still "problems" in Brussels "understanding the position of the British Government".

The speeches come as a poll shows widespread confusion over the Government's Brexit stance.

Almost three in four voters are not clear what Mrs May wants overall, BMG Research data for The Independent has shown.

A survey found that 39% of voters were "not at all" clear on the objectives, while 35% were "not very" clear, according to the paper.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said a series of major speeches planned by Prime Minister Theresa May and Cabinet heavyweights would set out a Brexit "vision".

She told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show: "What the public want is they want the vision and they want some meat on the bones.

"And that's what they are going to get. And that will involve at the end of the process the Prime Minister setting out what that new partnership will look like, but it will also give some detail on our trading ambitions and relationship, what it means for devolution, and many other aspects."

Asked if she thought a transition period was a given, Ms Mordaunt said: "My personal view is I do because it's in our interest and it's in the EU's interest, so I think common sense will prevail."

The comments came after EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said such an outcome was not a given.

Ms Mordaunt said: "What I would say to the public is that, actually, the other nations involved in this are very pragmatic and have not been impressed with some of the language that the (European) Commission has used."

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