Theresa May has called on her party to unite and “hold our nerve” over deadlocked Brexit talks as reports that the Prime Minister could be forced into an early election were dismissed as “for the birds”.
Mrs May told warring Tory factions to “come together in national unity” and fight growing calls for a referendum on the Brexit terms she negotiates with Brussels.
It comes as the Prime Minister faces a challenging meeting of her cabinet this afternoon, where ministers are expected to put forward opposing views of what immigration should look like after Brexit.
Mrs May and the Home Secretary Sajid Javid are believed to support the removal of any special status for EU nationals, to create a “level playing field” with migrants from other parts of the world, while the Chancellor Philip Hammond supports maintaining business access to European labour.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab dismissed claims that Mrs May could call a snap general election following the EU’s rejection of her Brexit strategy as “for the birds”.
Reports yesterday suggested senior aides in Downing Street had discussed the possibility of calling an election to break the deadlock in Brussels and within Mrs May’s party over her Chequers plan for post-Brexit trade
“It’s for the birds. It’s not going to happen,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
Mr Raab said the Government would keep negotiating with the EU on the basis of the Chequers proposals.
“This is a bump in the road. We will hold our nerve, we will keep our cool and we will keep negotiating in good faith,” he said.
“What we are not going to do is be dictated to. The UK is one of the biggest economies in Europe, if not in the world.
“We have come up with a serious set of proposals. We are not just going to flit from plan to plan like some sort of diplomatic butterfly. We are going to be resolute about this.”
Earlier Mrs May issued an appeal to warring Tories to come together to prevent the opposition parties derailing the whole Brexit process.
She claimed that “many in Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP are trying to thwart Brexit at every step and seeking to exploit this moment for political gain”.
The Prime Minister said: “This is the moment to put our country first.
“This is the moment to set aside our differences and come together in national unity.
“This is the moment to do what is right for Britain.”