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Theresa May seeks to quell cabinet in-fighting over Brexit

Theresa May seeks to quell cabinet in-fighting over Brexit

LONDON, July 17: British Prime Minister Theresa May will seek to reimpose order on her ministers after a series of damaging leaks pointing to cabinet splits on Brexit, her spokesman said Monday, reports AFP. The Conservative leader will use Tuesday's regular cabinet meeting to "remind" colleagues to keep their discussions private and urge them to focus on the job of government, he said. Ahead of the resumption of key Brexit negotiations in Brussels on Monday, the weekend newspapers were filled with stories about warring ministers, as well as leaks targeting Finance Minister Philip Hammond. "Cabinet must be able to hold discussions on government policy in private and the prime minister will be reminding her colleagues of that at the cabinet meeting tomorrow," May's spokesman said. "She will just be reminding them of their responsibilities," he said, adding that each minister's job is to focus "on delivering for the British public." Hammond hit back Sunday, blaming the "noise" on rivals who disagreed with his position that Britain must be careful to prioritise the economy when it withdraws from the European Union. But his words seemed only to fuel the fire, with an unnamed cabinet minister accusing him in Monday's Daily Telegraph of trying to "frustrate" Brexit. "What's really going on is that the establishment, the Treasury, is trying to **** it up. They want to frustrate Brexit," the minister said. "This is a critical moment. That's why we have to keep Theresa there. Otherwise the whole thing will fall apart." The minister said Hammond viewed Brexit supporters as "a bunch of smarmy pirates" who have "taken the establishment prisoner". The ruling Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority in the June 8 vote, greatly weakening May's authority, although she remains in office as the head of a minority government. Since then, individual ministers have publicly given different views on how Brexit should proceed, while media reports suggest some are manoeuvering for a possible leadership contest. Asked if the premier thought Hammond was trying to frustrate Brexit, May's spokesman said: "The government is all working together to deliver a Brexit which delivers on the will of the British people." Xinhua adds from Brussels: Britain and the European Union (EU) launched a new round of Brexit negotiations on Monday as Brexit Secretary David Davis meets with EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier for four days of talks to settle "divorce" terms. About a month after their first meeting, the two intend to push forward with a detailed plan that could minimize economic and social damage to both Britain and the EU after Brexit. "We made a good start last month, and this week we'll be getting into the real substance," Davis was quoted by Reuters as saying ahead of the meeting. Negotiators will focus on key issues concerning Britain's withdrawal, including citizens' rights, Britain's exit bill and the border in Northern Ireland. The EU had demanded that Britain pay some 60 billion euros (70 billion U.S. dollars) as exit fee. Negotiation on the exit bill might be especially tough, following British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson's remark last week that the EU could "go whistle" over its "extortionate" bill demand. The British side had urged over the past months an immediate start of trade talks, but Barnier had insisted that key issues of Brexit must be dealt with before trade talks begin. On Thursday, the British government introduced a draft law that would formally end Britain's membership in the European Union, as preparation for eventually breaking away from the EU and gaining back legislation power of parliaments. On Saturday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, however, that EU leaders would be willing to change their rules on immigration and free movement to enable Britain to stay in the 28-nation trading and economic bloc. In March, Prime Minister Theresa May had set a two-year timetable for leaving the EU, and has said the process can't be reversed.

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