Sunday 17 November 2019

Watch: British PM Theresa May defends Brexit plan after dancing onto stage


British Prime Minister Theresa May makes her speech at the Conservative Party annual conference: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
British Prime Minister Theresa May makes her speech at the Conservative Party annual conference: Victoria Jones/PA Wire Business Desk Business Desk

BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May made an upbeat start to her keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference by shimmying on stage to Abba's Dancing Queen today.

Mocking the dance moves she made during a recent visit to Africa, which went viral, the British Prime Minister arrived in the hall throwing some shapes as the crowd cheered.

Mrs May's speech last year was beset by a series of disasters - a prankster served her with a joke P45, she suffered a coughing fit and the letters on the set behind her fell off as she ploughed on with her address.

The PM told Tory activists: "Can I just say, you will have to excuse me if I cough during the speech.

"I've been up all night super-gluing the backdrop."

Mrs May called on her Conservative Party on Wednesday to pull together and unite behind her plan to leave the European Union, saying "if we hold our nerve" she can win a deal "that delivers for Britain".

On the final day of her party's conference, May rallied members, trying to address their concerns that the Conservatives are becoming increasingly directionless under the weight of Brexit by calling on them to look to a brighter future.

It was a warm welcome for a leader, whose fragile position was put under further pressure after the EU rejected parts of her so-called Chequers plan and critics stepped up calls for her to rethink her strategy for Brexit, Britain's biggest trade and foreign policy shift for more than 40 years.

But with just six months before Britain is due to leave the bloc, she has so far weathered the Brexit storm, shrugging off a barnstorming speech by her former foreign minister Boris Johnson, which did little to hide his leadership ambitions.

"If we all go off in different directions in pursuit of our own vision of the perfect Brexit, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all," she said in a clear nod to eurosceptic lawmakers who have published their alternatives plan for leaving the EU.

"And there's another reason why we need to come together. We are entering the toughest part of the negotiations ... What we are proposing is very challenging for the EU. But if we stick together and hold our nerve I know we can get a deal that delivers for Britain."

Taking a swipe at Johnson, May said she was taking decisions on Brexit in the "national interest", pressing her argument that her former foreign secretary's alternative Brexit proposals would tear the United Kingdom apart.

"It is no surprise that we have had a range of different views expressed this week," she said.

"But my job as prime minister is to do what I believe to be in the national interest. And that means two things. First, honouring the result of the referendum ... and secondly, to seek a good trading and security relationship with our neighbours after we have left."

She also used the speech to pay tribute to those who died in the First World War, which ended 100 years ago and also highlighted the efforts to rebuild in the wake of the Second World War "where former enemies become friends".

Mrs May said: "We must recapture that spirit of common purpose because the lesson of that remarkable generation is clear: if we come together there is no limit to what we can achieve.  Our future is in our hands."

She also joked: "It's not always glamorous. I have seen the trailers for Bodyguard - and let me tell you it was not like that in my day."

The PM highlighted abuse faced by politicians, including the high volume of racist and misogynistic messages sent to shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

She said: "You don't have to agree with a word Diane Abbott says (in order) to believe passionately in her right to say it free from threats and abuse."

Mrs May warned polarised politics can result in "good people being put off" public service, adding: "It doesn't have to be this way."

She added: "Let's rise above the abuse, let's make a positive case for our values that will cut through the bitterness and bile that is poisoning our politics - and let's say it loud and clear, Conservatives will always stand up for a politics that unites us rather than divides us."

The British Prime Minister used the speech to lash out at Labour, highlighting the anti-Semitism row which has hit the party under Jeremy Corbyn.

"What has befallen Labour is a national tragedy," she said. "What has it come to when Jewish families today seriously discuss where they should go if Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister?  When a leading Labour MP says his party is 'institutionally racist'?

"When the leader of the Labour Party is happy to appear on Iranian state TV but attacks our free media here in Britain? That is what Jeremy Corbyn has done to the Labour Party. It is our duty, in this Conservative Party, to make sure he can never do it to our country."

The Conservatives would be "a party for the whole country".

She said: "A party not for the few, not even for the many, but for everyone who is willing to work hard and do their best."

The Conservatives "must be a party that is not in thrall to ideology, but motivated instead by enduring principles".

The British Prime Minister said her principles could be summed up in three words: security, freedom and opportunity.

Belfast Telegraph

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