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The Prime Minister, who is holidaying in Switzerland, will only return to her desk in Downing Street on Thursday, pushing her summer break into an unusual fourth week.
Her time away risks proving controversial given concerns over Britain’s preparation for Brexit. Position papers on future customs arrangements and the border with Ireland are expected to be released during her absence, so her first day back will be in the midst of debate among senior politicians.
Mrs May headed to Italy with husband Philip at the end of July, then attended the Passchendaele commemorations in Belgium and spent a day working from No 10. Following that, she left for a two-week walking holiday in Switzerland. A spokesman said she has had 15 working days off.
Ian Lavery, Labour Party chair, said: “With her Cabinet squabbling over the Government’s position on issue after issue, it seems like she’s given up on governing.”
Today a leading Conservative Remain campaigner warned against “siren voices” calling for a new party to be set up to fight against Brexit.
Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said liberal Tory MPs should not be “drummed out” of the party by being lured into joining a new one or forced out by hardline Brexiteers.
Brexit Secretary David Davis’s former chief of staff, who is campaigning to launch a new anti-Brexit party, revealed last week that two members of Theresa May’s Cabinet had been in contact with him.
James Chapman said the two senior Tories believed there was “an enormous gap in the centre of British politics”, though he added that neither had suggested defecting. Ms Morgan, who campaigned for Remain last year and chairs the influential Commons Treasury committee, warned against Conservatives resigning to join a new party, which she believes would swiftly “collapse under its own contradictions”.
“If one-nation liberal Conservatives listen to these siren voices, what would it say about the Tory Party we now have?” she added on the ConservativeHome website. “To accept the argument for creating a new party would be to accept that the Conservative Party can no longer appeal to the British political centre ground.”
She said the Tories must stay a “broad church” not become a “narrow ideological shrine, appealing only to a narrow and ageing group of supporters”.
Mrs May will return to a Tory Party still rumbling with talk of a leadership challenge. Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has even been mooted as a possible successor. However, fellow backbencher Heidi Allen said she would quit the party if he took the helm.
“I couldn’t be in the Conservative Party if he was my leader,” she told BBC radio’s The Westminster Hour. She described him as “incredibly charming” and “very generous” but added: “He’s not the modern face of the Tory party that we are desperate — or I am, certainly — and colleagues are desperate to prove is out there.”
The Prime Minister will seek to gain some control over the political agenda by publishing the Brexit position papers. However, there are concerns among senior Whitehall officials that some documents are being rushed through without proper analysis.
At the weekend, Chancellor Philip Hammond, who favours a “soft” pro-business Brexit, and International Development Secretary Liam Fox, a leading Brexiteer, issued a joint statement that there would have to be a transition period after Britain leaves the EU. But they stressed it would be time-limited and Britain would quit the EU single market and customs union.
In a sign of the fraught negotiations ahead, New Zealand warned against a proposal that would limit the amount of its lamb which could be sold in Britain after Brexit.
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