BIRMINGHAM (England) • British Prime Minister Theresa May called on her Conservative Party yesterday to unite behind her plan to leave the European Union, warning critics their arguments could put Brexit in jeopardy.
On the final day of her party's conference, Mrs 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.
Dancing onto the stage in the city of Birmingham to Abba's Dancing Queen and a standing ovation, Mrs May poked fun at herself after her dance moves were mocked on a trip to Africa and after last year's conference when her speech was disrupted by a coughing fit, a stage intruder and a disintegrating set.
It was a warm welcome for a leader whose fragile position at the helm of her party has been put under further pressure after the EU rejected parts of her so-called Chequers plan and critics stepped up calls for her to ditch her strategy on Brexit, Britain's biggest policy shift for more than 40 years.
With just six months before Brexit, she has so far weathered the political storm, shrugging off a barnstorming speech by her former foreign minister Boris Johnson, which did little to hide his leadership ambitions.
Yesterday, she was keen to show she was in charge of the Brexit talks. "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, a rebuff to euro-sceptic lawmakers who have published their alternative 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."
She also tried to return to the message she gave when she was appointed Prime Minister in 2016, promising to help those who feel "left behind", many of whom voted to leave the EU in the referendum of that year.