Tories Welcome May’s Brexit Deal as Farage Slams ‘Humiliation’

  • Breakthrough splits Brexit-backers along familiar lines
  • Tories welcome deal while ex-UKIP leader says PM sold out
Nigel Farage says Brexit deal is "more like a surrender."

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Supporters of Brexit split along familiar lines as they learned of Prime Minister Theresa May’s breakthrough in Brussels.

Key Conservative players instrumental to the campaign to leave the European Union praised her. “Theresa May won,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove told BBC radio. “She’s got a deal in the interests of the whole U.K. She’s confounded her critics.” Trade Secretary Liam Fox said it was “great news.”

Boris Johnson, who has caused the premier no end of headaches in the past, congratulated her on Twitter for “her determination in getting today’s deal” while making clear what he expects: “We now aim to forge a deep and special partnership with our European friends and allies while remaining true to the referendum result - taking back control of our laws, money and borders for the whole of the UK.”

Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage however lashed out with sarcasm: “A deal in Brussels is good news for Mrs May as we can now move on to the next stage of humiliation,” he tweeted. 

The 2016 referendum campaign saw an acrimonious split between Vote Leave, the Tory-led movement which won the designation as the official campaign and Leave.EU, the UKIP-backed group. A year and a half later, Farage’s reaction show how the division is still there. 

Matthew Elliott, the former chief executive of Vote Leave, swiftly welcomed progress in Brussels: “Superb news to wake up to!” he tweeted. “Many congratulations to the PM. Very pleased with clarity that we’re leaving the Single Market & Customs Union.”

Theresa the Appeaser

Leave.EU set out its concerns in a series of tweets. “Our lily-livered politicians have sold the country down the river,” the group said. “We’ll all be paying money to the EU for years to come -- not what people voted for!”

The group, which regularly uses the language of World War 2, labelled the prime minister “Theresa the Appeaser.”

But UKIP has no voice in parliament, so the real question was the response of Conservative lawmakers. There the news was better for her. Former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, a leading campaigner for Brexit, gave the deal a cautious welcome.

“From what I know of this document, it is something that I could certainly live with,” she told the BBC.

“It is consistent with respecting the result of the referendum,” she went on to say. “There are some compromises in the document which I’d rather were not there, but if we’re going to make a success of this process and leave on orderly terms with a good relationship with our European neighbors, I’m afraid compromise is inevitable.”

Also weighing in behind May was Brexit Minister Steve Baker.

It isn’t usually news that a minister supports the government, but Baker organised pro-Brexit Tory lawmakers during the referendum, and would be unlikely to put up with anything he saw as a betrayal of the vote, so his voice is significant. “The prime minister has made important decisions in the national interest so we can move ahead to a successful EU exit,” he tweeted. “I am giving my full support.”

The question was whether other Brexit hardliners would follow suit. There was still no word from some of the leading Tory backers of Brexit, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Bernard Jenkin and John Redwood.

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