Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
2 October 2017updated 03 Oct 2017 10:07am

Andrea Leadsom refuses to deny Brexit splits with Theresa May

Former leadership candidate objected to Brexit transition terms and said: “I shall be in the cabinet just as long as the Prime Minister wants me to be.”

By George Eaton

At a Brexit fringe event earlier this evening at the Conservative conference, Andrea Leadsom did not disguise her differences with Theresa May. The Commons leader and former Tory leadership candidate told the event, hosted by the Centre for European Reform, that the UK would not only leave the EU in March 2019 but “take back control” of its “money, borders and laws”.

This, I noted in a question to her, contradicted the government’s new stance. Under the proposed two-year Brexit transition period, the UK would continue to pay EU budget contributions, accept free movement (in all but name) and abide by European Court of Justice rulings. “I know collective responsibility is a flexible concept in today’s cabinet,” I said. “But can you really remain in government?”

Leadsom replied: “In terms of myself, and can I stay in the cabinet, it’s absolutely clear, I shall be in the cabinet just as long as the Prime Minister wants me to be – and I can also tell you that the same is true of Boris [Johnson]. He’s fantastic but I’d love him to go the parliamentary hairdresser.”

In private, Leadsom has been more critical than any other cabinet minister of May’s recent Florence speech (which outlined a Brexit transition plan). 

Leadsom’s fellow panellist Dominic Grieve, the Tory MP and former attorney general, issued a series of warnings over Brexit. “Jeremy Corbyn will benefit,” he told the crowd of a potential fall in living standards. Grieve also warned that “the more ideological hurdles” the UK created, the harder it would be to achieve a reasonable Brexit deal. “Can you have a revolution without victims?” he asked in closing. The answer, he implied, was no. 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Update: Leadsom told the New Statesman: “The PM has set out a very clear plan for Brexit that will ensure certainty for the UK as we leave the EU – and I have made clear my full support for that.” 

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up