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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Senior minister and Brexiteer backs May following leadership questions

International trade secretary Liam Fox said he gave his “full support” to the prime minister

British Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox has backed Theresa May's premiership during a trade mission to China. Mark Schiefelbein/ AFP Photo
British Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox has backed Theresa May's premiership during a trade mission to China. Mark Schiefelbein/ AFP Photo

Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May has been backed by high-profile Brexiteer Liam Fox, after a report surfaced that a senior minister from her party was planning to denounce her leadership.

International Trade Secretary Dr Fox, who is currently with Mrs May on a foreign mission to China, said the prime minister had been received very well in Asia.

“I will give full support to the prime minister as long as she wants to lead my party,” Dr Fox told ITV in Beijing on Thursday morning.

“I think she is doing an excellent job and I do wish more of my party colleagues had seen the sort of leadership and commitment and positive agenda that’s been projected for Britain here in China.”

Dr Fox, a member of the Eurosceptic right of the ruling Conservative Party, said he wished his compatriots could see how the prime minister was seen in other countries.

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He said: “Maybe they should see the PM’s performance in selling Britain overseas. That might do everybody a lot of good.”

A senior minister is reportedly close to resigning over Mrs May’s leadership and is set to issue a call for a new direction for the party, according to British tabloid The Sun. The newspaper said the minister, who is not a member of the Cabinet, hopes his resignation will trigger a vote on the prime minister’s leadership.

She ruled out stepping down on Wednesday, telling press who had followed her to China: "I am not a quitter and there's a long-term job to be done.”

Mrs May, who became prime minister in July 2016 following David Cameron’s resignation, lost her party’s parliamentary majority after calling a general election in June 2017.

George Osborne, a key Mr Cameron ally who lost his Cabinet position when Mrs May came to power in 2016, said he believed the prime minister lacked enough parliamentary support to push through a “hard” Brexit.

Mr Osborne, who is now the editor of a London newspaper, had previously described the prime minister as a “dead woman walking” following June’s disastrous election result.

He refused to be drawn on questions over her leadership during an interview on BBC radio on Thursday morning, saying he wished her success during her trade mission in China.

But the former Chancellor warned Mrs May there were increasing numbers of politicians in Parliament who wanted to keep close economic links with the EU.

“That is going to pose a challenge to the government, of course, but it is also going to empower Parliament,” he said of the growing crisis in the Conservative Party.

“Last time I checked one of the principle arguments from the Brexiteers is that they wanted more parliamentary sovereignty.”

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