Theresa May pledges ‘humility and resolve’ over majority loss

Election results will not deter political will to leave EU, says British prime minister

Philip Hammond, UK chancellor of the exchequer (centre left) and Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England (centre right): Mr Hammond put protecting financial services ahead of controlling migration. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Philip Hammond, UK chancellor of the exchequer (centre left) and Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England (centre right): Mr Hammond put protecting financial services ahead of controlling migration. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

 

Theresa May has promised to govern with “humility and resolve” following the loss of her parliamentary majority but said the general election would not affect Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech, which will set out a two-year legislative agenda, the prime minister acknowledged that she fell short at the election.

“The election result was not the one I hoped for, but this government will respond with humility and resolve to the message the electorate sent. We will work hard every day to gain the trust and confidence of the British people, making their priorities our priorities,” she said.

“Much has been said in recent days about what the general election signified about Britain’s decision to leave the EU. The fact is that over 80 per cent of the electorate backed the two major parties, both of whom campaigned on manifestos that said we should honour the democratic decision of the British people.”

When the British people voted last June, they did not vote to become poorer, or less secure. They did vote to leave the EU

The prime minister was speaking after her chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, signalled a shift in tone on Brexit, suggesting that protecting the economy must be a higher priority than controlling immigration. Delivering the annual Mansion House address, which was postponed from last week due to the Grenfell Tower fire, Mr Hammond said Britain must be clear about its priorities.

Prosperity underpinned

“When the British people voted last June, they did not vote to become poorer, or less secure. They did vote to leave the EU. And we will leave the EU. But it must be done in a way that works for Britain. In a way that prioritises British jobs, and underpins Britain’s prosperity,” he said.

Mr Hammond said Britain must secure a comprehensive trade deal with the EU covering goods and services, and negotiate frictionless customs arrangements, particularly on the island of Ireland. He said robust transitional arrangements would be necessary to avoid a cliff-edge for businesses in 2019 and suggested that the current customs arrangements could continue for a number of years after Britain leaves the EU.

The Liberal Democrats on Tuesday criticised the prime minister for introducing a Queen’s Speech without a majority in parliament as talks between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party continue. Former business secretary Vince Cable became the first candidate to seek the Liberal Democrats’ leadership following Tim Farron’s resignation last week.

Political energy

Mr Cable, who regained his Twickenham seat in this month’s general election, is 74 but he insisted on Tuesday that he would not be too old to lead the party into an election in five years.

I mean these things happen, some of the brightest and most interesting people in British politics recently have been relatively old

“When the question arises, of a general election coming up, I’ve then got to make a choice; do I let one of my very able younger colleagues take over or do I do what William Gladstone did, quite a while ago? He became prime minister when he was 82, I think, way beyond my years. Winston Churchill did in his mid-70s,” he told the BBC.

“I mean these things happen, some of the brightest and most interesting people in British politics recently have been relatively old. You remember Bernie Sanders in America as well. I think age is a surety, if you feel old. I don’t feel old. I feel young and energetic and I’m very much up for a contest.”