Michael Gove has conceded the Conservative Party’s election disaster means Theresa May will now have to listen to the demands of other political parties when it comes to negotiating Brexit.
The pro-Brexit cabinet minister, who was appointed environment secretary in the reshuffle, said the government now had to listen to what Remain voters wanted.
Pressure on the prime minister to pursue a more cross-party approach to Brexit with greater focus on the economy is growing amid reports of secret talks between Cabinet ministers and Labour MPs.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has already said “this isn’t just going to be a Tory Brexit”.
And William Hague, the former foreign secretary, said today there should be a cross-party commission that includes Jeremy Corbyn to help shape the eventual Brexit plan.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s today programme this morning, Gove, who was a leading Brexit campaigner, said there now needed to be an “open conversation” about how the UK left the EU.
“It is also the case we need to recognise we, as Conservatives, were not returned as a majority. That means we need to proceed with the maximum possible consensus,” he said.
“We also need to ensure that the concerns of people who vote Remain, many of whom want us to press ahead with leaving the EU as quickly and in as orderly a fashion as possible, we need to make sure their concerns are part of our conversation.”
The Evening Standard and The Daily Telegraph, have reported that Cabinet ministers have initiated talks with Labour MPs to secure cross-party backing for a softer Brexit.
And writing in The Daily Telegraph today, Lord Hague said May should assemble a Brexit team from both inside and outside parliament.
“Call in the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, the TUC, the first ministers of the devolved governments, and the leaders of all the opposition parties – yes, even Corbyn – leading MPs of all parties, and say: ‘If you are willing to discuss how to make this work within these parameters, come in and we will be open to your views. There isn’t a perfect solution, but on how to conduct a transitional period and how to help the economy through Brexit as a priority we will work with you’,” he wrote.
“There might well be some common ground on how to balance trade and migration, and even if there wasn’t, the government would have changed both the style and substance of how it approaches this most complex of issues. It would have to be done in the next few weeks to have any hope of being in time for key stages of the exit talks.”
May had specifically argued a vote for her at the election was a vote for her approach to Brexit - but the gamble backfired and the prime minister lost her overall Commons majority.
It came as the European Commission’s chief negotiator warned that Britain risks crashing out of the EU with no deal if it wastes any more of the time available for Brexit negotiations.
Today, May and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster will hold critical talks on a deal to prop up a Tory minority administration after the government admitted the Queen’s Speech could be delayed.
The prime minister will be desperate to get agreement from the DUP to back her legislative programme in the House of Commons or risk her government falling.
The Tories and the DUP are considering a “confidence and supply” arrangement which would see the Northern Irish party back the government to get its Budget through and on confidence motions.
It comes after May told Tory MPs: “I’m the person who got us into this mess and I’m the one who will get us out of it.”