‘Smiling’ Theresa May faces ministers for the first time since quitting

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Theresa May’s Cabinet had a huge meltdown over Brexit today as she warned her successor will face the same problems winning over MPs.

Ministers rowed about ramping up No Deal spending, and whether it would be illegal to close Parliament if it was trying to prevent the UK crashing out in October.

Chief whip Julian Smith warned that MPs have the numbers to torpedo any government that tries to push through hard Brexit against their will, MailOnline understands. 

And Mrs May insisted whoever takes over from her at No10 will face the ‘same problem’ of trying to forge a compromise between warring factions.

The extraordinary bust-up came in a three-hour meeting in Downing Street – the first since Mrs May formally tendered her resignation as Tory leader.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay called for a boost to spending on No Deal, amid fears the chances of crashing out at Halloween are rising.

But he was contradicted by colleagues including Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who warned that the move would ‘have consequences’ and merely waste funds that could be used for public services. 

Ms Rudd is understood to have said: ‘I want to see more money being spent on child poverty and to improve housing and to boost education. 

‘So when we think about the costs of preparing for No Deal we should consider the priorities we all came into politics to talk about and change.’ 

Home Secretary Sajid Javid butted heads with Chancellor Philip Hammond over a demand for £1billion more of No Deal funding for the border force. Mr Hammond denied that the Treasury had been withholding the money.

Mr Javid then seemingly sent a letter after Cabinet formalising the request for cash. But government sources said it amounted to ‘four paragraphs asking for over £1billion’. ‘Either he’s bad with money or he can’t count,’ a source said.  

Mr Smith said he was convinced that Parliament would do ‘everything it can’ to stop No Deal, and dismissed the idea that the government could push it through regardless. 

Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart laid into the idea that a PM could prorogue Parliament – effectively shutting it – to prevent MPs blocking No Deal. The plan has been mooted by would-be leader Dominic Raab. 

Ms Rudd backed up Mr Stewart. But he was challenged by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who said such a proposal might be ‘improper’ but it would not be illegal.  

Mrs May is thought to have stayed out of the bad-tempered exchanges, but delivered a stark warning to her successor.

‘There were as many people, if not more, on the stop no deal side as in the ERG who would not support my deal,’ she said. ‘My successor is going to have the same problem.’ 

As she tries to salvage some legacy from her time in power, Mrs May wants to push through changes that will protect more people from modern slavery and will present it to ministers this morning. 

The PM, who stepped down as leader of the governing Conservative Party earlier this month, is also due to call on world leaders to face up to their ‘moral duty’ and take action to halt modern slavery.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has already tried to block Mrs May’s plans for a multi-billion pound spending spree to secure her legacy.

The PM had planned to announce a series of spending pledges, including billions for schools and colleges, but has been blocked by her Chancellor.

In her final days in power, Mrs May has clashed with Mr Hammond, who is refusing to fund the pledges she wants to make, whose cost is estimated by the Treasury at £10 billion.

Mr Hammond is understood to want to keep the money aside as part of his Brexit war chest he has built up while a no-deal Brexit remains a possibility, the FT reported.

Later she will travel to the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation centenary conference in Geneva.

Mrs May will urge business and political representatives to do more to protect the millions of people being held and forced to work against their will.

She is expected to say: ‘No leader worthy of the name can look the other way while men, women and children are held against their will, forced to work for a pittance or no pay at all, routinely beaten, raped and tortured.

‘So, those of us who can speak out, who have a platform from which to be heard, have a duty, a moral duty, to raise our voices on their behalf.’

As then home secretary, Mrs May oversaw the introduction of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act in 2015, said to be the the first of its kind in Europe.

The outgoing Prime Minister now plans to announce further measures to help tackle modern slavery at home and overseas.

These include funding a £10 million programme to reduce the exploitation of children in Africa’s agricultural industries and the creation of a new international modern slavery and migration envoy to help co-ordinate the UK’s work with other nations.

Under the Modern Slavery Act, large businesses have a duty to be open about their efforts to cut out abuse from their supply chains.

Mrs May now wants to create a new central registry of modern slavery transparency statements to give consumers the ability to make informed choices about businesses.

She will also urge the Government to find ways to make it harder for companies to avoid scrutiny and expand transparency laws to cover the public sector.

‘Modern slavery reaches into every corner of our lives – in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the services we pay for,’ Mrs May will say.

‘Yet for many years it seldom captured the world’s attention or outrage – allowing those who trade in human misery to quietly continue their work and allowing all of us to look the other way as we benefited from the forced labour of this growing underclass.

‘Throughout my time in government – first as my country’s home secretary, more recently as its Prime Minister – I have fought to change that.’

Mrs May will argue it is ‘more important than ever’ to ‘accelerate’ the fight against modern slavery and ‘do all that we can to meet the UN’s goal of ending this abhorrent crime by 2030’.

 

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