Leaver Leadsom and Remainer Hunt Push May’s Deal, Say Brexit Delay Would Be ‘Betrayal’

Brexit
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Cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom and Jeremy Hunt — the former a Leave-supporting party leadership runner-up, the latter an ex-Remainer and party leadership hopeful — have penned a joint article extolling the supposed merits of Theresa May’s deal with the European Union, and denounced efforts to delay Brexit as “a betrayal of the referendum result”.

“[T]he active pursuit of a delay to Brexit — with no purpose beyond frustration — is a betrayal of the referendum result,” they wrote in the Telegraph, adding that such a delay “would lead to an irretrievable breach of trust with those who are already cynical about the will of Westminster to deliver on the result to begin with.”

However, they also claimed that Brexiteers arguing for a clean, No Deal Brexit were “turning their backs on a far more attractive option in the [Prime Minister]’s deal — avoiding disruption and uncertainty for businesses and our people.”

This is a questionable assessment of Mrs May’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement with the EU — already heavily rejected in a “meaningful vote” in Parliament, and so far unchanged as she prepares to put it to MPs again by March 12th — given it does not actually finalise a new relationship with the EU, but merely commits Britain to giving the bloc an estimated £39 billion to stay on as a non-voting member during a lengthy “transition” in which negotiations will continue.

The pair suggested that the Labour Party’s decision to reverse its election pledges to respect the 2016 vote to Leave the European Union and back a referendum re-run amounted to their having “opted to betray the people” and accused them of having “no strategy, and no sense of duty.”

Leadsom emerged as the leading Brexiteer in the Tory leadership contest to succeed David Cameron, who felt his position was untenable after the Brexit vote — but, having made it to the final two candidates selected from among the ranks of Tory MPs, she declined to fight the final round where the party’s largely Brexit-supporting member base would have been allowed to participate, allowing Theresa May to walk into Downing Street unchallenged.

She was rewarded with a place in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, but as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Privy Council she has little role beyond that of constitutional functionary, lacking a significant government department covering a substantial area of policy.

Hunt, on the other hand, is a “centrist” in the mould of David Cameron, backing Remain in 2016 and occasionally joining in with Project Fear in his former role as Health Secretary — which won him many detractors among public sector workers, despite his general inoffensiveness — but without any particular enthusiasm.

After succeeding Boris Johnson as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary when he resigned from Theresa May’s government over her deal’s failure to deliver a genuine Brexit, Hunt had previously been thought to be positioning himself as the “Managed No Deal” candidate in a potential race to succeed the Prime Minister — although many doubted whether he seriously intended to deliver it.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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