Theresa May revealed she uses 150 cook books and box sets of US crime drama NCIS to escape from Brexit stress today – as she took her Cabinet on the road to sell her plans to the public.
The Prime Minister tried to soften her ‘Maybot’ image as she held a town hall style meeting with workers in Newcastle.
The at-times awkward performance – which brought back memories of Mrs May’s faltering style in the election campaign last year – came after the Cabinet met in Gateshead.
After holding talks at the Sage music centre, which overlooks the River Tyne, ministers fanned out on a series of visits in the area as they stressed that the views of the North East are being listened to in the Brexit process.
Ministers pledged backing for technology and manufacturing development in the region, as well as committing to funding offshore and remote island wind to power millions of homes.
During the question and answer session at the Reece Group engineering firm in Newcastle, Mrs May was asked how she coped with what was probably ‘the world’s most stressful job at the moment’.
Mrs May initially seemed at something of a loss, before saying: ‘I like walking, my husband and I enjoy going walking when we can, taking holidays walking.
‘I enjoy cooking, which has a benefit because you get to eat it as well as make it – I own over 150 cookbooks so I spend quite a lot of time looking at cookbooks.’
At a town-hall style event with factory workers in Newcastle after the Cabinet meeting (pictured), Mrs May admitted there were ‘negatives’ coming out of Brussels about her proposals but said she was still confident of striking a deal
Mrs May told workers at the Q&A event that the work for a no-deal Brexit was being stepped up
During the question and answer session at the Reece Group engineering firm in Newcastle, Mrs May was asked how she coped with what was probably ‘the world’s most stressful job at the moment’
The former home secretary also revealed she enjoyed NCIS, which focuses on investigating wrongdoing in the US navy and marines.
‘Does anyone here know the American series NCIS? I quite like watching NCIS when I can,’ she said.
Mrs May was pressed on how confident she was she can sell her Brexit blueprint to other European leaders.
‘What I see is people focusing their minds now on the impact the future relationship will have on their economies as well as ours,’ she said.
What is in Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint?
These are some of the key features of the Chequers plan being pushed by the UK government:
- A new free trade area in goods, based on a ‘common rulebook’ of EU regulations necessary. This will require the UK to commit by treaty to match EU rules
- ‘Mobility’ rules which will end automatic freedom of movement, but still allow UK and EU citizens to travel without visas for tourism and temporary work. It will also enable businesses to move staff between countries.
- Continued UK participation in and funding of European agencies covering areas like chemicals, aviation safety and medicines
- A ‘facilitated customs arrangement’, removing the need for customs checks at UK-EU ports. It would allow differing UK and EU tariffs on goods from elsewhere in the world to be paid at the border, removing the need for rebates in the vast majority of cases. In theory this allows Britain to sign trade deals.
- Keeping services – such as banking or legal support – outside of the common rule book, meaning the UK is completely free to set its own regulations. It accepts it will mean less trade in services between the UK and EU.
- Continued co-operation on energy and transport, a ‘common rulebook’ on state aid and commitments to maintain high standards of environmental and workplace protections.
- A security deal allowing continued UK participation in Europol and Eurojust, ‘co-ordination’ of UK and EU policies on foreign affairs, defence and development.
- Continued use of the EHIC health insurance card.
She admitted that there were ‘negatives’ coming out of Brussels about her proposals, but said she was still confident of getting a deal with the EU.
‘We’ve had some constructive responses so far. I won’t say that you won’t hear some negative things being said but so far, constructive responses.’
Asked what would happen if the package did not satisfy Brexiteer and Remainer factions in the Commons, she said: ‘My aim is to bring forward a deal that Parliament will support.’
Mrs May also made clear that the work for a no-deal Brexit was being stepped up. ‘We are making sure we are prepared for no deal,’ she said.
Mrs May also played down doomsaying warnings about the consequences of a no deal outcome, saying the UK could have a ‘brighter future’ whatever happened.
‘The future post-Brexit is going to be what we make it. We want to get that good deal with the European Union, but we have huge benefits here in the UK, with our entrepreneurship, our innovation, our skillset, our workforces.
‘We can really take those opportunities and have that brighter future. ‘Many people said that immediately after the referendum, we would see a collapse in our economy. In fact our economy has continued to grow. ‘Our future is what we make it.’
Earlier, Jeremy Hunt used a trip to Germany to warn the EU that refusing to compromise will poison relations ‘for a generation’.
Speaking alongside his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Berlin this morning, Mr Hunt said Germany was ‘one of Britain’s best friends in the world’ and they shared a commitment to a ‘rules-based international order’.
But he also warned Britons would blame Brussels for a chaotic Brexit and the outcome would shape attitudes towards the EU ‘for a generation’.
‘Without a real change in approach from the EU negotiators we do now face a real risk of a no deal by accident, and that would be incredibly challenging economically,’ he said.
‘Britain would find that challenging, but in the end we would find a way not just to survive but to thrive economically.
‘But my real concern is that it would change British public attitudes to Europe for a generation.’
Mrs May and her senior team met in Gateshead this morning to consider the state of play, amid mounting fears about the UK crashing out of the bloc in March
The Cabinet is emphasised its commitment to the economy in the North East by holding its weekly meeting there today
Mr Hunt warned that the EU commission seemed to think Britain would ‘blink’ if it blocked a deal. But he said: ‘That is not going to happen.’
Mr Maas said Germany wanted to see an orderly Brexit.
In a tweet after the talks, Mr Hunt said they had an ‘excellent discussion’ about the ‘unintended geopolitical consequences of No Deal’.
‘Only person rejoicing would be Putin,’ he added.
German interior minister Stephan Mayer gave a boost to Mrs May this morning by warmly welcoming her Chequers plan.
Mayer, a member of the CSU party which is coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said it was important for both sides that the UK stayed close to the EU.
‘I’m deeply convinced that the Chequers plan is a very appealing and very interesting approach,’ he said.
But he added: ‘Certainly the Chequers plan will not be the final result of the negotiations.’
Mrs May and the Cabinet met at Sage Gateshead today as they consider how to proceed in the Brexit negotiations
Speaking in Berlin, Mr Hunt said Germany was ‘one of Britain’s best friends in the world’ and they shared a commitment to a ‘rules-based international order’
Mr Hunt (pictured right with Mr Maas today) said the outcome of Brexit talks would define relations for a generation
Mrs May is walking a tightrope as she battles to hold the Tories together behind her Chequers plan for future trade ties, while at the same time winning over the EU to the ideas.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab admitted yesterday that he still needs to persuade some Cabinet members to get fully behind the compromise blueprint – which would see the UK obey a ‘common rule book’ with Brussels and collect some taxes on behalf of the bloc.
The pressure intensified today after it emerged the head of Amazon in the UK warned of ‘civil unrest’ within two weeks if Britain leaves the EU with no deal.
Doug Gurr, the British manager for the US online giant made the comments to other business leaders, according to The Times, insisting this was the worst-case outcome which formed part of his contingency planning.
As London and Brussels squared down for an intensive 12 weeks of talks before the deadline for a deal in October, Mr Raab accused the EU of acting ‘irresponsibly’ and trying to ramp up pressure on the UK with their projections of what the outcome of the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement would be.
Mr Raab stressed that the UK was serious about about the possibility of a no deal walkaway from the EU, as Tory former PM Sir John Major said that a second referendum was ‘morally justified’.
Mrs May will be hoping for a temporary breathing space as the Commons rises for the summer recess tomorrow.
The Prime Minister is expected to hold talks with Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz and other EU leaders at the Salzburg Festival on Friday.
Also this week, Mrs May’s de facto deputy David Lidington will travel to Paris while Mr Raab will be in Brussels for talks on Thursday.
Security was tight for the Cabinet meeting that was held in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, today
Dominic Raab, pictured on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, said he hoped there would be ‘goodwill’ from the EU but the government was planning for all outcomes
So what would happen if we just walked away?
Leaving without a deal would mean an immediate Brexit on March 29 after tearing up a 21-month transition agreement. This included giving £39billion to the EU, which ministers would no longer have to pay, a House of Lords report claims.
The Chequers agreement effectively proposed keeping Britain in the single market for goods and agriculture to preserve ‘frictionless’ trade and protect the economy.
Customs checks on cross-Channel freight would cause havoc at ports, hitting food supplies and other goods.
Even Brexiteers admit to a big economic impact in the short term. Britain could waive customs checks on EU produce to free up backlogs, but would Brussels do the same?
All EU-UK trade in goods is free of tariffs in the single market.
Trade would revert to World Trade Organisation rules. The EU would charge import tariffs averaging 2-3 per cent on goods, but up to 60 per cent for some agricultural produce, damaging UK exporters.
We have a trade deficit with the EU of £71billion – they sell us more than we sell them – so the EU overall would lose out.
German cars and French agriculture would be worst hit, as would UK regions with large export industries. Tariffs could also mean price inflation. But UK trade with the EU is 13 per cent of GDP and falling compared to non-EU trade, which generates a surplus and is likely to grow. The outlook would be boosted by Britain’s ability to strike trade deals.
The UK would immediately have control over its borders and freedom to set migration policy on all EU migrants.
UK nationals would likely lose their right to live and work in the EU. There would be legal uncertainty for the 1.3million Britons living in the EU and the 3.7million EU nationals here.
CITY OF LONDON
Many firms have already made contingency plans for no deal, but there would probably be a significant degree of disruption and an economic hit.
Ministers would be likely to take an axe to tax and regulations to preserve the UK’s economic advantage.
Fears of planes not being able to fly appear far-fetched – unless the EU is determined to destroy both business and tourism. Rules to keep planes in the air are likely to be agreed. The EU has many deals with non-EU countries as part of its Open Skies regime.
Britain would be free from the edicts of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and all EU laws. Parliament would be sovereign.
FARMING & FISHING
THE UK would quit the Common Agricultural Policy, which gives farmers and landowners £3billion in subsidies. Ministers would come under pressure to continue a form of subsidy.
Northern Ireland would be outside the EU, with no arrangements on how to manage 300 crossing points on the 310-mile border.
The EU would want Ireland to impose customs and other checks to protect the bloc’s border – something it has said it will not do. No deal could blow a hole in the Good Friday Agreement, with pressure on all sides to find a compromise.