Theresa May to tell conference

Geraldine Edwards
October 4, 2018

British leader Theresa May's beleaguered Brexit plan would still allow Australia to strike a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, but it would be a lesser deal, says former high commissioner to Britain Alexander Downer.

Foster was challenged on her opposition to equal marriage on Tuesday by left-wing columnist Owen Jones, during an interview at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

In front of 1,500 conference delegates in Birmingham, central England, Johnson lambasted May's so-called "Chequers plan", which would see Britain stick close to European Union rules in return for remaining in the bloc's single market for goods.

The DUP, which props up Theresa May's government, has ruled out backing any agreement which treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK.

"If we all go off in different directions in pursuit of our own visions of the ideal Brexit, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all", May said in a warning to Johnson and others who aim to oust her or force her to change course.

"If we stick together and hold our nerve, I know we can get a deal that delivers for Britain".

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She reached out to voters whose living standards have been squeezed by stagnating incomes and public-spending cuts since the 2008 global financial crisis.

She launched a ferocious assault on Jeremy Corbyn's Labour, describing the takeover of the party by the left as "a national tragedy" and his policies of nationalisation and shares for workers as "bogus solutions that would makes things worse".

Her words were aimed at easing the growing frustration of some Conservatives who openly say their party is meandering without substantive new ideas, unable to set an agenda amid their divisive feuds over how to depart the EU.

And the animus that motivated Johnson-supporting MP James Duddridge to try to trip up the speech by announcing his submission of a letter to the 1922 calling for a leadership contest remains. Forty-eight such letters are needed to trigger a vote of confidence in the leader.

Mrs May said she was lifting the cap on councils borrowing to fund new developments, in a move which aides said could lead to additional investment of an estimated £1 billion in as many as 10,000 new homes a year.

With just under six months until Britain leaves the European Union on March 29, the speech on Wednesday (Thursday NZT) was an attempt by May to solve her Brexit conundrum.

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The speech did not impress major pro-Brexit figures including Nigel Farage, who called it "politically correct beyond belief" and like "the relaunch of the [Social Democrats]".

Finger-wagging: Boris Johnson addresses delegates at the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham.

The promise is of a bright Brexit future - but only if her party unites around her vision.

Mrs May said she was "cross" with her former foreign secretary, accusing him of being ready to "tear up" her guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland that there would be no customs border down the Irish Sea.

"It is no surprise that we have had a range of different views expressed this week", May said.

The EU has rejected her proposed Brexit deal and demanded new ideas from Britain.

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The entire narrative arc of the speech was about unity in party and nation.

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