Party Conference’s in the UK are a rallying call to the Party’s position; Minister’s present new policies, drive home old ones and prepare their base for war against their opponents.
Brexit should be a major rallying call at the Conservative Party Conference; but key Ministers have been unable to even mention Chequers.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, representing one of the most crucial elements of international cooperation in post-Brexit Britain, barely mentioned the Government’s plan. His colleagues, Penny Mordaunt and Esther McVey, who are understood to have expressed concern with the plan, also managed to avoid any discussion on Chequers.
The Foreign Secretary Jeremy tore into the tactics of the EU negotiating style yesterday as he compared the bloc to the USSR. But whilst he may have been prepared to attack the EU, he was hardly prepared to defend his own Government’s approach.
The International Trade Secretary Liam Fox declared after the reception European leaders gave the Chequers plan in Salzburg last month that “we have a right to expect our partners to engage seriously, and with respect”. But he too, doesn’t seem to respect Chequers enough to mention it by name, or to talk it up much, instead adding limply at the same reception that it is “simply not acceptable to dismiss the UK’s proposals without putting any alternative in place”.
British Ministers are being coy about Chequers because they understand that it lacks the popularity of their own base, who they are seeking to mobilise and motivate.
The question then becomes, if the British Conservative Party are unable to motivate their own supporters behind Chequers, then how can they possibly expect to motivative European Leaders.
Theresa May and her cabinet colleagues want Brussels to try harder to engage with the UK’s Brexit proposals, yet Mrs May seems to be the only member of the Government happy to be associated with them. If ministers want the EU to treat Chequers with the respect and seriousness they demand, they will have to lead by example.
If they cannot bravely defend their own policy, perhaps its time to re-assess the campaign in favour of a new proposal.