May sees Brexit as damage limitation exercise, former aide claims

Theresa May’s former chief of staff has suggested that the Prime Minister has failed to take the steps needed to take full economic advantage of Brexit because she regards the process as a “damage limitation exercise”.

Nick Timothy said that Mrs May and many of her ministers “struggle to see any economic upside to Brexit”.

And he told the BBC that she should have been much clearer at an earlier point in the Brexit process that all sides of the Conservative Party would have to compromise to get a good result.

One of Mrs May’s most influential advisers since her time at the Home Office, Mr Timothy was forced out of 10 Downing Street in 2017 after being blamed by many Tories for the disastrous general election campaign which saw the party  lose its majority in the House of Commons.

Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg for a forthcoming BBC Two documentary entitled Inside The Brexit Storm, he suggested that Mrs May’s approach since then has stopped the Government taking the necessary steps to get the most out of Brexit.

“I think one of the reasons we are where we are is that many ministers – and I would include Theresa in this – struggle to see any economic upside to Brexit,” he said.

“They see it as a damage limitation exercise.”

He added: “If you see it in that way then inevitably you’re not going to be prepared to take the steps that would enable you to fully realise the economic opportunities of leaving.”

Mr Timothy addressed the challenges Mrs May has faced in managing her party through the process of EU withdrawal.

“One of the difficulties she’s had is that she’s tried to take every part of the party with her at different points,” he said.

“It would have been better to be clearer that not everybody in the party was going to get what they wanted.”

Mr Timothy, who is a supporter of Brexit, said that many MPs write off Leave voters as being “racist, stupid or too old to have a stake in the future”.

He described Mrs May’s premiership as “not bad,  but unlucky”,  and warned that Government mishandling of Brexit risked “opening up space for a populist right-wing party”.

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