Europe

Brexit crisis: Environment secretary decides not to quit

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All eyes have been on Environment Secretary Michael Gove, the highest-profile pro-Brexit campaigner left standing in May's cabinet, to see whether he would follow others out the door.

 

British Environment Secretary Michael Gove said on Friday he had confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May and was focused on working for a good deal for Britain as it leaves the European Union.

Two of his cabinet colleagues quit over May's Brexit plans, leading to speculation that Gove might follow them.

Asked if he had confidence in May, Gove said "I absolutely do."

"I think it's absolutely vital that we focus on getting the right deal in the future, and making sure that in the areas that matter so much to the British people, we can get a good outcome," he told reporters.

Prime Minister Theresa May pictured during a live phone-in on LBC, hosted by presenter Nick Ferrari, at their studios in central London.
Prime Minister Theresa May pictured during a live phone-in on LBC, hosted by presenter Nick Ferrari, at their studios in central London.
AAP

May faced the public to defend her Brexit deal as she battles to salvage the agreement and her own political future.

May made a rare outing on a radio phone-in during which she faced a call to step down after a tumultuous Thursday in which ministers resigned and members of her own party plotted to oust her.

"I truly believe this is the best deal for Britain," May said of the proposed EU withdrawal agreement, adding that she was "very sorry" that ministers including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab had quit.

'Stand down' 

One caller, a local councillor in her centre-right Conservative Party, urged May to "do the right thing in the national interest and stand down".

She also faced comparisons with prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his 1938 appeasement of Nazi Germany's dictator Adolf Hitler.

"We are not going to be locked in forever to something that we don't want," May insisted.

Brexiteer MPs fear the deal would keep Britain shackled to the Brussels, while EU supporters say it would leave the UK on worse terms than it has inside the bloc and are calling for a second Brexit referendum to break the logjam.

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May has held her ground on a draft Brexit deal despite strong opposition. (AAP)
AAP

May could yet face a vote of no confidence from her own MPs.

Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, the high-profile leader of the Brexit hardline European Research Group, submitted a letter of no-confidence on Thursday.

At least 48 letters from Conservative MPs are required to trigger a vote of no confidence in the party leader. But a majority of the party's 315 lawmakers would have to vote against May in order for her to be ousted -- and if she wins, she cannot be challenged for 12 months.

Allies back away 

May's Conservatives do not have a majority in parliament's lower House of Commons and MPs from all sides lined up in the chamber on Thursday to say her draft deal would be voted down, satisfying neither Brexiteers nor pro-EU loyalists.

The Conservatives rely on Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party for a slim majority but the DUP are prepared to vote against the deal, fearing it splits the province off from the rest of the UK in order to prevent a hard land border with the Republic of Ireland.

Asked whether DUP leader Arlene Foster had withdrawn her party's backing, May said: "I haven't had a testy exchange with Arlene on that" and insisted the DUP's overall support for the government was still intact.

The 585-page draft deal aims to ensure a smooth divorce from the EU after more than four decades of membership and outlines a transition period for both sides.

Dominic Raab has quit as the minister responsible for Brexit.
Dominic Raab has quit as the minister responsible for Brexit.
AAP

Key provisions seek to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect citizens' rights and settle Britain's last bill.

The pound steadied versus the euro and rose against the dollar, having been hammered on Thursday over the Brexit turbulence.

Sterling was up 0.4 percent at $1.2822 in morning trading, while one euro was worth 88.61 pence.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index gained 0.5 percent to 7,071.59 points.

EU member states have until Tuesday to examine the deal and to agree the wording of a parallel political statement setting out goals for the bloc's future relations with London.

A special EU summit to seal the hard-fought Brexit agreement will be held on November 25.

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