James Forsyth

Can Theresa May satisfy both Boris and the EU?

Can Theresa May satisfy both Boris and the EU?
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We are only six days away from Theresa May’s big Brexit speech in Florence. But it is far from certain what will be in it, as I say in The Sun today.

The biggest domestic challenge for May, insiders say, is squaring Boris Johnson. I’m told that ‘there is quite a lot of nervousness about that’. ‘Boris has been the most hard-line’ of the Cabinet Brexiteers an insider tells me. One of those involved in the negotiations between the two camps predicts ‘it is going to be a tetchy week.’

Boris’s issue is money. He is opposed to paying a big exit payment to the EU and he’s told Number 10 that he wants that £350 million for the NHS. My information is that Boris could not accept a £10 billion a year, or more, payment to the EU during any transition. He takes the view, I’m told, that if you are paying for access you are still in.

One well-placed Tory warns ‘He can’t possibly stomach this. The PM really has to be very careful’. This source emphasises that ‘Number 10 have to be mindful of not putting him in an impossible situation’.

But there are those who are hoping that May can find a way to say enough in Florence about what the UK will pay to persuade the EU to move on to trade talks proper in October. It is hard, though, to see how she can do this without saying something that Boris would deem incompatible with the promises made during the referendum.