Theresa May insists cabinet is united after day of Tory infighting

Theresa May has insisted that her cabinet is united following a day of infighting over her government’s tax-and-spend plans and Brexit.

Her official spokesman argued that Ms May’s team was still adhering to “collective responsibility” despite openly questioning each other’s actions.

The bout of disunity was triggered both by a speech from Treasury minister Liz Truss and amid the fallout from Boris Johnson’s reported disparaging comments about British business.

As well as serving ministers, ex-frontbenchers and backbenchers also piled in on a day when Ms May had wanted to prepare for a critical European summit.

Tensions are also rising ahead of a meeting of the full cabinet at the PM’s Chequers country retreat, to thrash out the government’s approach to Brexit next week.

But Ms May’s spokesman argued: “The cabinet from the PM down are focussed on the job of delivering for Britain.”

Asked if collective responsibility still applies, he simply said: “Yes.”  

Jeremy Hunt on Marr saying businesses shouldn’t voice fears about brexit

The last week has seen rising pressure on the government to go for a softer Brexit, with firms like Airbus and BMW warning of dire consequences in the event of no deal.

It led to foreign secretary Mr Johnson allegedly saying “f**k business”, when asked about it at a private event, though aides later claimed he was talking about lobbyists.

This was, as I understand it, a throwaway remark at a drinks reception, and probably not wise, but I wouldn’t read any more into it than that

Justice secretary David Gauke on Boris Johnson’s comment

On Wednesday justice secretary David Gauke went pointed out that his cabinet colleague’s remark was “not wise”, but attempted to downplay its significance.

He said: “The point I would make is that business drives wealth and prosperity in this country, so I think we should listen to what business has to say and engage with business.

“Business is hugely important to us, and I certainly don’t think anyone should be dismissive.

“This was, as I understand it, a throwaway remark at a drinks reception, and probably not wise, but I wouldn’t read any more into it than that.”

But ex-international development secretary Priti Patel also appeared frustrated by Mr Johnson’s loose talk.

She said the government is “seeing some rogue behaviour from ministers and I don’t think that’s acceptable”, citing both Mr Johnson and health secretary Jeremy Hunt who had also attacked business for speaking out against the government’s approach to Brexit. 

Ms Patel said: “I’m going to join the chorus of being quite dismissive, of one of their voices in particular.”

Asked if she meant the foreign secretary, she eventually said: “I don’t agree with Boris Johnson … of course I don’t.”

Airbus CEO warns the company could leave the UK in the event of no deal Brexit

Meanwhile, Brexiteer backbencher Jacob Rees Mogg took aim at chancellor Philip Hammond accusing him of colluding with business to push the government towards a softer Brexit.

Mr Rees Mogg, chairman of the influential European Research Group of pro-Brexit Tories, said: “I think there is cooperation between the Remainers in the cabinet and some businesses, some of the more politicised businesses.”

Asked on Sky News who he meant, he replied: “Oh, the chancellor. Boris Johnson was quite right when he said the Treasury is the beating heart of Remain, that’s obvious.”

However, the day began amid the fallout of chief Treasury secretary Ms Truss’s speech, in which she had launched an attack on environment secretary Michael Gove over rules to protect the environment and targeted others for making “macho” calls for higher spending.

She said Mr Gove’s plans to curb wood-burnings stoves, to improve air quality are “hot air and smoke at the environment department”.

Ms Truss dropped a similar attack on attempts to outlaw plastic straws at the last minute, perhaps after realising the plan has been endorsed by Ms May.

But she did tear into the likes of home secretary Sajid Javid and defence secretary Gavin Williamson who have launched attempts to win bigger budgets ahead of the spending review.

Their bids came after Mr Hunt secured a new £20bn funding settlement for the NHS from the Treasury.

Conservative former minister Ed Vaizey described Ms Truss’s comments as a “full frontal assault”, adding: “I think Liz Truss has achieved what she wanted to achieve, which is repositioning herself and getting herself much more noticed than perhaps she has been in the past.”

Education secretary Damian Hinds later waded in , dismissing her suggestion that asking for better funding for his department is “macho”.

Mr Hinds went on to confirm that he would be fighting for more “visibility” in the education budget, possibly calling for a 10-year spending plan.

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