British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged a united consensus on her Brexit blueprint, warning that a deeply divided Cabinet could give way to eurosceptic lawmakers.
Critics have hit out at the Conservative party leader for choosing to arrive on stage to the strains of ABBA’s hit Dancing Queen for her keynote speech to the Conservative conference in Birmingham on Wednesday.
Ms May’s cringeworthy entrance – a reprise of the dance steps from her recent African trip – ignited a social media storm, as she received both praise and condemnation.
At the most extreme end of the scale, one Twitter user claimed Ms May “ruined ABBA” and another called for “Whoever thought that was a good idea” to be “sacked”. Another meme replaced the ABBA song with the Bee Gee’s hit Tragedy.
— LBC (@LBC) October 3, 2018
With only six months to go before Britain formally exits the European Union, Ms May remains under pressure and raised concerns over the country’s future if it were leave with no clear deal in place.
She declared the age of austerity over with a message to voters that “there are better days ahead”, but said squabbling over the details of EU withdrawal might mean “ending up with no Brexit at all”.
“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,” Ms May said.
Former London mayor Boris Johnson, who is fighting to succeed Ms May labelled her a “constitutional outrage”.
“If we get it wrong, if we bottle Brexit now, believe me, the people of this country will find it hard to forgive,” Mr Johnson said in an earlier speech at the Conservative Conference.
But standing firmly by her Brexit plan, Ms May promised: “If we stick together and hold our nerve, I know we can get a deal that delivers for Britain.”
She did not use the word “Chequers” – the name of her country residence where the plan was agreed by Cabinet in July – but aides insisted that this was not intended to signal any shift away from her blueprint.
Ms May said next year’s post-Brexit Spending Review will set out a programme of increased investment in public services, as a mark that the decade of cuts following the financial crash is coming to an end.
And she announced a new cancer strategy to increase early detection of the illness and save 55,000 lives a year by 2028, along with a ninth successive annual freeze in fuel duty.
Ms 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 STG1 billion ($A1.8 billion) in as many as 10,000 new homes a year.
In a message to voters weary of belt-tightening, the PM said: “Because you made sacrifices, there are better days ahead.
“A decade after the financial crash, people need to know that the austerity it led to is over and that their hard work has paid off”.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell dismissed Ms May’s austerity claim as “a complete con”, saying; “The Government has already told us that spending for the next four years will be hit by many more vicious cuts. Nothing, sadly, has changed.”