The Times: Hold your nerve on Brexit, Theresa May tells cabinet25 September 2018 | 03:20 | FOCUS News Agency
The prime minister also secured cabinet agreement yesterday for a new immigration system after Brexit despite objections from Philip Hammond, the chancellor, on how the change should be managed.
A threatened rebellion from Brexiteer ministers demanding that Mrs May seek a looser, Canada-style deal with the EU failed to materialise after she told colleagues to hold their nerve in the face of opposition from Brussels.
Sajid Javid, the home secretary, presented the details of a new “global” immigration system at yesterday’s meeting alongside Alan Manning, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee.
Downing Street said that the system should make it easier for high-skilled rather than low-skilled workers to come to Britain, adding: “The cabinet agreed that, once free movement is brought to an end, the government will be able to introduce a new system which works in the best interests of the UK — including by helping to boost productivity.”
Mr Hammond and Greg Clark, the business secretary, called for businesses to be given more help to adapt to a new system and argued against any form of “cliff edge”. They were not backed by other Remain-supporting cabinet ministers. A Whitehall source said the chancellor had supported Mr Javid’s broad proposals, accepting that he had shifted his position on migration during this year.
“Philip Hammond did not argue to continue free movement, nor did he argue against curbs to low-skilled migration,” the source said.
“What Greg Clark pushed for yesterday — and Philip Hammond agreed with him — was to avoid a cliff-edge policy which involves a sudden big change for business. They lost that argument.”
Another Whitehall source said: “We were worried there would be some pretty binding restrictions on low-skilled migrants but we’re confident that what’s emerged will be OK for the economy, and key government priorities that rely on labour like housing and social care will be protected.”
The source said that the disagreement was brief and there was not a “showdown”.
The latest official papers on the issues facing businesses in a no-deal scenario admitted that flights could be grounded and ports gridlocked.
Last week’s rejection by EU leaders of Mrs May’s Chequers plan has emboldened her opponents. Senior Conservative Brexiteers lined up yesterday to back an alternative plan based on a Canada-style deal. The report, by the Institute of Economic Affairs, a free-market think tank, says that Britain should drop EU food safety regulations, which it says are not based on science, to prioritise a trade deal with the US.
It also calls on the government to cut corporation tax and reduce EU workers’ rights legislation, which it claims discourages companies from hiring.
Mrs May told the cabinet that there was no chance of a U-turn, however. “She said it was always clear that there would come a critical point in these negotiations and now is the time to hold our nerve,” according to the official account of the meeting. “She said that there is no future relationship that will prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, maintain the constitutional integrity of the UK and respect the referendum result that does not include frictionless trade.”
Today Labour will all but commit itself to opposing a Chequers-style deal when MPs vote on a Brexit agreement. The party’s divisions were made plain yesterday when John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, and Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, clashed over whether to offer voters a chance to remain in the EU in any second referendum.
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