Published: Thu, September 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

May seeks to unite divided Cabinet before big Brexit speech

May seeks to unite divided Cabinet before big Brexit speech

Theresa May is chairing a Cabinet meeting aimed at restoring unity in her Government ahead of a crucial Brexit speech on Friday in Florence.

Mrs May's top European Union adviser Oliver Robbins told his counterparts in European Union capitals, including Berlin, that the offer would be included in the Prime Minister's address, the report says.

May flew home with Johnson overnight from NY, where they had attended the UN General Assembly, landing at dawn before holding a special cabinet meeting in Downing Street.

Divorce negotiations have made little progress on key issues including the status of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border and the amount Britain must pay to settle its financial commitments to the bloc.

But days before the speech, foreign minister Boris Johnson laid out his own Brexit vision, challenging her more cautious approach and exposing the fault lines in her party and government.

No figure so far has been floated by the British Government or the EU.

Downing Street has been tight-lipped about Mrs May's speech, seen as the most important intervention on Brexit since her Lancaster House address in January. Johnson faced claims of trying to force the prime minister's hand after publishing a 4,000-word article in the Daily Telegraph calling for a clean break with the European Union after Brexit.

He subsequently denied reports he planned to resign if his blueprint was not followed and described the government as "a nest of singing birds".

Mr Johnson has dismissed speculation he might resign this weekend, telling the Guardian newspaper that he was "mystified" by the suggestion. "I think that is what is going on", he was quoted as saying.

BBC political correspondent Leila Nathoo said Mrs May's challenge is to make enough of a gesture to Brussels to kickstart negotiations, while reconciling both Remainers and Brexiteers in Cabinet to her position.

His comments come as the Prime Minister prepares to make a major speech on Brexit in Florence which she will try to break the deadlock in negotiations between the United Kingdom and Brussels.

In a show of unity, Mr Johnson is expected to travel to Italy for the speech.

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