British Prime Minister Theresa May has called on her Conservative Party to pull together and unite behind her plan to leave the European Union, saying “if we hold our nerve” she can win a deal “that delivers for Britain”.
On Wednesday, the final day of her party’s conference, May rallied members, trying to address their concerns that the Conservatives are becoming increasingly directionless under the weight of Brexit by calling on them to look to a brighter future.
Dancing onto the stage in the city of Birmingham to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” to a standing ovation, May poked fun at herself after her dance moves were mocked on a trip to Africa, and after last year’s conference when her speech was disrupted by a coughing fit, a stage intruder and a disintegrating set.
It was a warm welcome for a leader, whose fragile position was put under further pressure after the EU rejected parts of her so-called Chequers plan and critics stepped up calls for her to rethink her strategy for Brexit, Britain’s biggest trade and foreign policy shift for more than 40 years.
But with just six months before Britain is due to leave the bloc, she has so far weathered the Brexit storm, shrugging off a barnstorming speech by her former foreign minister Boris Johnson, which did little to hide his leadership ambitions.
“If we all go off in different directions in pursuit of our own vision of the perfect Brexit, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all,” she said in a clear nod to Eurosceptic lawmakers who have published their alternatives plan for leaving the EU.
“And there’s another reason why we need to come together. We are entering the toughest part of the negotiations … What we are proposing is very challenging for the EU. But if we stick together and hold our nerve I know we can get a deal that delivers for Britain.”
She also tried to expand her domestic agenda, attacking the main opposition Labour Party by saying their policies, including the renationalisation of mail, rail and utilities, would mean increased taxes and drive away business.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, she said, would “outsource our conscience to the Kremlin”.
Her words were aimed at easing the growing frustration of some Conservatives who openly say their party is directionless, unable to set an agenda against the divisive rows over Brexit between competing wings of the party.