May abandoning Chequers?

The prime minister didn't mention Chequers in her conference speech


Theresa May chucks the word Chequers - but not the policy

Imagine being a fly on the wall the moment one of Theresa May's aides floated the idea she do a robot dance as she walked onto the conference stage.

Imagine the looks when the suggestion of making that entrance to the tune of ABBA's Dancing Queen was put forward.

It's about as unlikely a plan as one could fathom when it comes to Mrs May, but given how wrong things went last year, perhaps the sense was - what have we got to lose?

The answer, of course, is a lot.

But once the self-deprecating opening was out of the way the prime minister moved on to addressing the major challenges she faces.

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Is Theresa May considering an alternative to Chequers?

By Joe Harker

At the Tory party conference enemies of prime minister were imploring her to "chuck Chequers", but when it came time for her speech she didn't mention the word once. She spoke about getting a Brexit deal that works for Britain and once again called on the EU to show respect but the C word was conspicuously absent from her speech. Although she has repeatedly insisted that she will not consider another plan for leaving the EU, the lack of mention for Chequers had some wondering if she was ready to change that stance.

The lack of a Chequers mention was encouraging to the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. He is reportedly hopeful that the prime minister not talking about her Brexit plan may mean that she has decided to ditch it in favour of something that actually works with EU rules.

However, besides the lack of a mention in her speech Theresa May has given no other indication that she is intending to "chuck Chequers". Writing in the Financial Times, Charles Grant argues that a revised Chequers plan is the best hope May has for Brexit. He believes she needs to redesign her plan as her current one is not something the EU can strike a compromise with.

Brexit hardliners in the Tory party have said they will vote down any deal that resembles the Chequers plan when the prime minister tries to pass it through the House of Commons. Steve Baker MP, part of the European Research Group, insisted that the prime minister needed to change her plan to something more acceptable to supporters of Hard Brexit. He warned May that she faced a "substantial revolt" if she didn't change course soon.

The Daily Telegraph reports that May wants the "chuck Chequers" brigade to ditch their objections to her plan instead. Even if she didn't namecheck her Brexit plan she is sticking to it and expects dissidents in her party to shut up and get in line.

The Chequers plan is horrendously unpopular in mainland Europe too. Many key figures in the EU believe the prime minister has not been receptive to criticism over her deal and the French government have said that crashing out with no deal would be better for the UK than sticking to May's plan. They have parroted a line that several British politicians have used before, "no deal is better than a bad deal". They clearly think that Chequers is a bad deal.

The Daily Mail suggests that the prime minister is at least trying to rebrand her Brexit plan. The word Chequers is now so toxic in British politics that she may have no choice but to call it something else and hope the public don't understand that the details haven't changed.

However, no amount of rebranding can change the fact that Theresa May's Brexit plan is considered unworkable by the EU and unacceptable by her own MPs. She may have realised that nobody wants to hear her pushing her Chequers plan any more but it will still hit the same obstacles as before. A plan by any other name would be as unpopular.

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The Guardian

Theresa May's failure to mention Chequers 'gives Barnier hope'

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has taken Theresa May’s failure to namecheck Chequers in her Tory conference speech as a sign that she may be ready to dump the plan and get realistic, according to sources in Brussels.

In her speech in Birmingham, May spelled out her vision of a free trade deal but she notably did not talk of it as her “Chequers proposals”, as she has done in the past. Some Tory MPs who are campaigning for May to drop the proposal of a common rulebook on goods, in particular, have taken that as a positive sign.

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