Leading cabinet Brexiter Penny Mordaunt has failed to explicitly back Theresa May’s Chequers plan for Brexit, increasing pressure on the government not to make dramatic concessions to Brussels in the crucial days ahead.
The international development secretary said that she would not give a “running commentary” on the plans, when asked if she supported them, saying simply that the ball was now “firmly” in the EU’s court on what happened next.
However, while Mordaunt insisted that the prime minister had her support for now, she raised the possibility that this might be conditional if the final deal looked like an “attempt to derail or fudge” the outcome of the Brexit vote.
After a speech on British global aid after Brexit, she said: “The prime minister can count on my support but what I would say is that we don’t know where this is going to end up. We are at a critical moment now. The ball is firmly back in the EU’s court. We are waiting for them to respond.”
In her remarks to an audience of development officials and journalists, Mordaunt also set out radical plans to privatise a proportion of the £14bn aid budget, effectively reducing the amount of public funds that make up the UK’s 0.7% GDP commitment.