Theresa May’s supporters have hit back at claims she was branded “lily-livered” by David Cameron for scuppering plans for tough new immigration controls.
The prime minister’s camp took the unusual step of releasing details of her private correspondence with Cameron to rebut claims she blocked plans to curb the numbers coming into Britain.
However a Cameron aide has claimed the ex-prime minister was prevented from doing so by May – then home secretary - and former foreign secretary Philip Hammond, now Chancellor.
“Hammond spoke first and argued we just couldn’t do something that would receive an immediate raspberry in Europe,” the advisor told The Sunday Times’ political editor Tim Shipman, for his new book ‘All Out War’.
“Theresa said very, very little, and simply said that we just couldn’t go against Merkel.”
A “visibly deflated” Mr Cameron was said to have turned to one official and said: “I can’t do it without their support. If it wasn’t for my lily-livered cabinet colleagues....”
In the first, she is said to have proposed the emergency brake to change the rights of citizens to move within the EU so that national governments could act in the best interests of their populations.
In the second, May was said to have argued that the tool was crucial to cutting numbers and convincing the public the Government was capable of policing its own borders.
Speaking after the Number 10 letters release, Shipman told BBC Radio 4 that “everything Downing Street is putting out is wholly consistent with what I have written and they are not in any way disputing the details of what happened in that meeting”.
The author and journalist added: “Clearly there are a bunch of people around David Cameron who wish he had been slightly tougher but also they think it’s important that people understand that in a fluid situation, not everybody took the toughest possible lines at all times and that did not just include David Cameron, it included other senior members of his government.”
It comes after the ex-work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith hit back at claims in another book that May “let down” Cameron by sitting on the fence and only reluctantly agreeing to campaign for a Remain vote.
In his book, Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story Of Brexit, Sir Craig detailed 13 occasions on which May failed to support Cameron before she did reluctantly “come off the fence” – but only after he gave her a dressing down over the telephone.
He said that throughout the campaign, she had pursued a “submarine strategy of disappearing from view”,
But Oliver he was accused by Brexiter Duncan Smith of trying to pin the blame for the failures of the Remain campaign on other people.
“Craig Oliver is one of a growing number of foolish attempts by ex-government Remainers who lost to shift responsibility for their failure,” he said.
“The grown-up thing for them to do, instead of carping, is to show some humility and get behind Theresa May as she seeks to get back control of migration with the EU as we leave.”