Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday accused British Members of Parliament who refuse to support her Brexit strategy of playing politics with the country's future.
In an interview with 'The Sunday Times' as the three-day Conservative Party conference opened in Birmingham, May reiterated that her so-called Chequers plan was the only proposal possible to strike a deal with the European Union (EU) on Britain's future relationship with the economic bloc once it has formally left in 2019.
She attacked the Opposition Labour Party for now backing the idea of a second referendum on the issue of Britain's membership of the EU.
"They said they'd respect the referendum result. Yet now they appear to be wanting to ask people to have a second go at it. So, you can't believe what they say. They're playing politics with this issue," she said.
To her own Conservative Party, which also remains divided over the issue, she said: "My message to the Conservative Party is going to be that, 'We are the party that always puts country first and puts the national interest first.' This is about a critical issue for the future of this country. And I think we naturally are a party that looks to the national interest."
She challenged the EU again to put forward counter-proposals instead of just turning down her plan as "unworkable", adding that she was "not bluffing" when she said "no deal is better than a bad deal".
The comments coincided with former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, one of the fiercest critics of May's Brexit strategy who quit the Cabinet over the issue, launching his latest tirade against her leadership.
"Unlike the Prime Minister I campaigned for Brexit. Unlike the Prime Minister I fought for this, I believe in it, I think it's the right thing for our country and I think that what is happening now is, alas, not what people were promised in 2016 (EU referendum), he told 'The Sunday Times' in a separate interview.
In a further warning to the British PM, he said you "can't beat (Labour leader Jeremy) Corbyn by becoming Corbyn".
"What grieves me about the current approach to Brexit is that we are just in danger of not believing in ourselves, not believing in Britain," he said.
He also refused to rule out a leadership challenge or say whether May should lead the party into the next election: "The Prime Minister said she is going to serve for as long as her party wants her, and I certainly think she should."
The annual Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, which runs until Wednesday, is being seen as the stage for the ruling party's leadership hopefuls to lay out their credentials with some big ticket announcements.
With the UK due to leave the EU on March 29 next year and negotiations on the terms of the exit and future cooperation still at an impasse, the issue of Brexit is likely to dominate much of the agenda.
However, some domestic issues are also likely to be played up, with May set to announce plans for a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to showcase the United Kingdom in January 2022 months before the next scheduled General Election will be due in June 2022.
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