Although Theresa May did manage to prevent a revolt breaking out after her speech in Florence yesterday, that’s not to say anyone in Cabinet is particularly pleased by her words. The Prime Minister did buy herself more time – but failed to clearly say where she what direction she was planning to go in that period.
On the backbenches, Conservative MPs have less reason to hold their tongue over such concerns – as Jacob Rees-Mogg demonstrated on Newsnight. The Brexiteer MP has been the first out of the blocks to express concern over what May said – and the red lines she may have crossed:
‘I have three concerns about the speech, the first is free movement which ought to end at the end of March 2019 and I think it is about the question of the Home Office’s competence actually, because it hasn’t done very well with dealing with illegal immigrants so far. The question for the Home Office is can it be ready in time to do the job properly? I think that it ought to be and I think that is a challenge for the Home Secretary”
The other area I’m concerned about is that we should be promising money before we know the other side of the deal. They want money, we want trade. For us to be guaranteeing money, which the speech practically does, so early on, concerns me considerable.
And the third point that concerns me is that it hasn’t been made clear whether in this implementation period we will still be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. To my mind that is a red line.’
Rees-Mogg went on to heap praise on the Foreign Secretary’s 4,000 word Telegraph article, which set out ‘the really positive argument for Brexit’.
With May on the fence, is the Eurosceptic wing of the party about to rally round Boris Johnson?