UK's May refuses to fire minister in Brexit impact dispute

Britain's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May. (Justin Tallis, AFP)
Britain's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May. (Justin Tallis, AFP)

London - UK Prime Minister Theresa May won’t fire a Brexit minister for wrongly saying he had heard of a plot by independent officials to keep the country inside the European Union.

Speaking during trade visit to Shanghai, May said minister Steve Baker would be making a formal apology to Parliament for his remarks - and that should be the end of the matter.

Asked by the UK’s Channel 5 News if she would be firing Baker, May said: “No. The ministerial code says that the minister should take the earliest opportunity to amend the record that has given to Parliament and apologize to Parliament. He will do that.”

Baker said he had been told of a UK Treasury plan to undermine Brexit, even after a recording was released that contradicted his account. He later backed down, acknowledging that the recording showed his recollection of remarks by Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform was wrong.

Earlier, he had surprised lawmakers and apparently his own boss when he said Grant had told him Treasury officials had created a distorted model to support the case for keeping Britain in the European Union’s customs union. Grant had denied saying this, and the recording released later supported his account, as did several attendees of the event.

In her interview in China, May said: “What I understand the minister did was to reflect what he thought somebody else had said at a meeting. He has now recalled that was not right. He is going to apologize.” Baker will make sure the official record was corrected so “Parliament is not misled when that record is read in the future,” she said.

Speaking to ITV News, May suggested the government’s internal Brexit analysis might not be decisive in forming her final policy.

“It’s important of course that the Government looks at the analysis that is available,” May said in Shanghai. “But of course it’s also important that the government does what the British people want us to do - the British people want us to leave the European Union and that is what we will be doing.”

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