Grassroots Tories ‘warn May against further Brexit concessions to Brussels’

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Theresa May has reportedly been warned by the chairman of her local Conservative association not to make any further concessions on her Brexit White Paper.

Richard Kellaway said that if the plan agreed at Chequers “were to be diluted it would ultimately not be acceptable”, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

He is one of seven chairmen of associations in constituencies held by Cabinet ministers who, the paper claims, either oppose the plan or would withdraw their backing for the Prime Minister if she ceded any more ground.

It adds more pressure to the Prime Minister as she starts her summer holiday apparently stuck between a rock and a hard place over the attempt to strike a Brexit deal with the EU.

Mrs May was dealt a blow by Brussels on Thursday as its chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, rejected the customs proposals that form a key plank of her White Paper.

She had received a boost on Friday after Austria agreed that Brexit would be among topics for discussion at an informal meeting of EU leaders.

Downing Street said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz agreed that Britain’s departure from the EU would be on the agenda for the European Council being hosted by his country – which currently holds the EU presidency – on September 20.

It means that the Prime Minister has an extra gathering of leaders of the EU 27 in which to convince them to support her Brexit plan after a week in which ministers have been deployed to various capitals to woo senior politicians.

The next meeting is a gathering of EU leaders in Brussels in October by which time it has been hoped a Brexit deal will be hammered out.

In Sunday’s paper, Mr Kellaway, the Maidenhead Tory chief and local councillor, said he backed Mrs May and that a Downing Street briefing on the White Paper “went down very well”.

He told the paper: “At some stage we’ve got to do a deal, and a deal by definition is a compromise.”

But he added: “I think we have reached the stage that if we don’t get a deal around these terms, then we’ll have to break away.”

A leading Brexit-backing lawyer has also questioned the White Paper, saying it meant “UK courts will continue to be ruled by the EU”.

Martin Howe QC, chairman of Lawyers for Britain, said the Prime Minister’s claim that Brexit would end the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in the UK was “sophistry at best”.

He said: “It is clear that the Prime Minister has now broken the pledges she made in the manifesto and in the Lancaster House speech.

“Within the ‘common’ rulebook areas at least, it is quite clear that the interpretation of the laws applying within the UK will continue to be carried out by judges in Luxembourg, with judges in the UK having only a subservient role.”

On Saturday the head of a pan-European dairy co-operative warned that a no-deal Brexit would risk soaring prices and supply problems getting products to consumers.

Ash Amirahmardi, UK managing director of Arla Foods, spoke after ministers last week raised the spectre of foods and medicines being stockpiled as part of contingency planning in case the UK leaves the EU without a deal in place on customs.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that 16% of UK dairy products are imported, and of those 98% were from Europe, saying: “If we have barriers at our ports then that is what is going to lead to increased prices and potentially supply issues.”

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