Theresa May holds Downing Street talks with soft-Brexit backbenchers


Theresa May is meeting backbench Tory MPs opposed to a hard Brexit as the Government moves to present a united front on EU withdrawal.

The Prime Minister is talking to a group of Conservatives in Downing Street on Wednesday who fear the economic consequences of a "hard" break with Brussels.

Some of the MPs will be pressing Mrs May to publish a white paper setting out the Government's policy stance ahead of triggering the Article 50 mechanism that formally launches "divorce talks" with the UK in the spring, according to reports.

Former education secretary Nicky Morgan will not be among those received in Number 10 after engaging in a public spat with the PM after criticising Mrs May's decision to wear £995 designer leather trousers for a photo-shoot.

Among those expected at the meeting are former ministers Anna Soubry and Bob Neill and a number of other MPs keen to keep the closest possible links with the EU after withdrawal.

The soft Brexit group has been encouraged by talk from senior ministers like Chancellor Philip Hammond in recent days suggesting a longer transitional relationship may need to be negotiated to ease the impact of withdrawal.

The meeting comes as a Lords report calls for an immediate guarantee to protect the European Union citizenship rights of all EU nationals in the UK at the time of Brexit.

They should not have to wait until the end of negotiations on Britain's departure for a firm message on their future, the Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee warned.

Britain is expected to seek to introduce controls on free movement rules, but details of the system have yet to be outlined.

The Guardian said another Lords report due out on Thursday will warn tens of thousands of banking jobs could be lost to the Continent from next year if there is no agreement on a transitional deal.

Peers have considered a range of potential job losses to financial services because of Brexit, including one putting the figure as high at 200,000, the newspaper said.