May to quit after Brexit deal passed

Theresa May has promised Tory MPs she will stand down if they back her EU withdrawal deal. She told backbench Tories: “I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.”

The PM said she knew that Tory MPs did not want her to lead the next phase of Brexit negotiations and won’t stand in the way of that. She did not name a departure date at a packed meeting of the 1922 committee.  A Tory leadership contest could be expected in May. Downing Street said it would be a “different ball game” if the deal was not passed by Parliament. It comes as MPs seize control of the Commons agenda to hold votes on alternatives to the deal.

Mrs May told the 300 or so Tory MPs at the meeting “we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit”. “I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit.”

Boris Johnson, a likely contender in any leadership contest – was smiling broadly as he left the meeting. A very senior Conservative had said the PM was “as clear as she has ever been” that she will not be around for the next stage of Brexit but, if the deal does not pass then “that’s a different matter”.

Tory MP Simon Hart said the mood in the 1922 meeting was “respectful” as the prime minister set out her plan. He said: “She was passionate about getting the deal through, passionate about keeping the party together and passionate about keeping the government as the government, passionate about keeping Jeremy Corbyn out of Number 10.”

Despite the nature of the meeting, Mr Hart joked that “neither the Chief Whip nor the PM were crying”. The PM has said she wants to bring the deal back to the Commons this week, after it was previously rejected twice, by large margins.

Speaker calls for changes Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled last week that the government could not return for a third attempt, unless there had been “substantial” changes to the proposals. And he warned ministers earlier that they should “not seek to circumvent my ruling” by introducing procedures that could reverse his judgement.

A Downing Street spokesman said there had been a “significant development” at the summit in Brussels last week, after Mrs May agreed “extra reassurances” over the Irish backstop with the EU, and the date of exit had changed.

Many Tory Brexiteers are looking to the Democratic Unionist Party, who have led opposition to the PM’s deal, before deciding whether to get behind it. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, said “I think that we have got to the point where legally leaving is better than not leaving at all. “Half a loaf is better than no bread.” He said his only condition for supporting the deal was that Mrs May wins round the DUP. “I won’t abandon the DUP because I think they are the guardians of the union of the United Kingdom,” he said.

Theresa May’s last Brexit gamble in pieces as resignation plan is insufficient

Theresa May played her final card tonight telling Tory MPs that she will quit if they back her Brexit deal.

The emotional Prime Minister told a packed meeting she will quit before the next stage of talks – but only if her twice-defeated divorce plan passes at the third attempt. She had been under intense pressure to stand down to allow a new Tory leader to take Brexit talks in a fresh direction. Almost immediately leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson announced that he would now back the PM’s plan.  But, with the hardline DUP and dozens of Tory eurosceptics standing firm the chances of her ‘meaningful vote’ passing looked remote.

With MPs failing to agree a majority on any alternative option, the Government was gearing up for a long delay to Brexit with just two weeks to go until the extension deadline. But, Downing Street was clinging to the hope that her momentous decision could smooth the way for her plan to finally pass this week. Senior Tory sources suggested the party would kick off a leadership contest on May 22, with the new PM in place by mid-July.  No 10 insiders suggested if it did not go through she would not feel able to resign amid the chaos that would inevitably follow. “It’s hard to see how we could have time for a leadership contest in quite the same way if we’re still in the middle of trying to take us out,” one said.

Mrs May faces an immense uphill battle after the DUP confirmed it would vote against the divorce deal, with party leader Arlene Foster saying it “poses a threat to the integrity” of the UK. Arlene Foster said the DUP cannot support the PM’s deal

A hardcore group of more than 30 Tory eurosceptics were also holding out. And she needs to win over Labour MPs with Leave seats who are anxious that if they back the deal they could end up with a Brexiteer PM. They want her to promise a formal role for Parliament in setting a negotiating mandate for the next stage of talks with Brussels. It remains unclear whether the Speaker will even allow the PM to bring her plan back for a third time.

The chances of a general election increased dramatically after Mrs May’s announcement.  Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “A change of Government can’t be a Tory stitch-up, the people must decide.” Tory heavyweights immediately started jostling for position – with about a dozen expected to throw their hats in the ring.

Environment secretary Michael Gove emerged as the early favourite as a unity candidate between Brexiteer and Remainer wings of the party. But, he may be hard pressed to persuade colleagues he is trustworthy, after stabbing his former ally Mr Johnson in the back last time, and is still trying to shed his toxic image after being demoted by David Cameron. Mr Johnson has long been planning a comeback after dropping out of the 2016 race but could struggle to win over MPs in the first round of the leadership contest who regard him self-serving.   However, he is popular with the public and is generally regarded as having an electoral stardust many of his colleagues lack.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is the PM’s favoured successor as she is understood to believe he will deliver on her Brexit vision – an endorsement that may not be entirely helpful.   Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss and Health Secretary Matt Hancock are all expected to have a shot. Mrs May is the fourth Tory PM after Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron to be forced out by the Tory civil war over Europe. There are plans for her to have one last big trip to the G20 summit at the end of June in Japan if her deal passes.

In a packed room in the House of Commons, she told MPs: “I have heard very clearly the mood of the Parliamentary party.  “I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations – and I won’t stand in the way of that.” Tory sources said an emotional Mrs May had accepted that she had mistakes. She told them: “I know I don’t hang around in the bars, I know I don’t gossip in the tea rooms, but that doesn’t mean your concerns haven’t been heard.” As MPs spilled out of the room, they rallied around the PM and insisted she had acted in the national interest.  Several confirmed they would now back the deal as a result of her announcement.

Scots Secretary David Mundell added: “She believes in the national interest that a change of leadership is required for the next stage of negotiations.” Mr Johnson, chased down the corridor, would only say: “The PM spoke very well and was very warmly received.”  Minutes later he told a meeting of the Brexiteer European Research Group of Tory MPs that he was “reluctantly” backing the deal.  The top Brexiteer had previously accused the PM of “wrapping a suicide vest” around the British constituntion and “handed the detonator” to Brussels with her deal.  Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg also said they would fall in line.  But, hardline eurosceptic Steve Baker told the ERG he was consumed by “ferocious rage” and could resign the Tory whip.  One ERG source said that he was hugged by Mr Rees-Mogg and senior Brexiteers. “We are not a hugging group,” they added.

Mrs May’s announcement is the latest dramatic twist in a three-year saga but, it still remains unclear how, or even if, the UK will leave. EU sources were pessimistic about the chances of the Government being able to strike a path through the crisis.  Several warned that a No Deal Brexit was looking much more likely. MPs voting on eight alternative Brexit options failed, as expected, to achieve a majority on any of those on the table. The result made a long extension, a general election and No Deal all more likely.The most popular options were a second referendum, which 268 MPs voted for, and a UK-wide customs union, which 264 MPs supported. Both had more support than Mrs May’s own deal, which just 242 MPs backed at the second attempt. With the Brexit process thrown into yet more confusion, MPs will have another chance to vote on the same options on Monday. After the vote, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay urged MPs to fall in behind the PM’s plan. “There are no guarantees about where this process will end,” he said.

Catalonia ‘National Day’ rally draws million

Catalonia ‘National Day’ rally draws million

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionProtesters march in Barcelona to mark the national day of Catalonia

About a million people have taken to the streets of Barcelona to mark Catalonia’s “National Day” and show continued support for independence. The annual celebration is the first since Catalonia’s failed attempt to break away from Spain last October. A sea of protesters wearing red shirts and bearing red-and-yellow Catalan flags banged drums, blew whistles and chanted slogans of support. The turnout was roughly the same as last year. Catalan regional president Quim Torra and his predecessor Carles Puigdemont, who fled into exile in Belgium after the failed independence bid, had urged people to demonstrate. Mr Torra said at the end of the rally: “We are starting an endless march.” Tuesday’s Diada holiday marks the day Barcelona fell to the soldiers of King Philip V in 1714 and for the past eight years has been used as a rallying point for independence. It is the first such celebration since Catalonia held a referendum on independence on 1 October last year and then unilaterally declared independence on 27 October. But the bid failed after Spain’s constitutional court deemed the move illegal and Madrid imposed direct rule. Image copyright Reuters Image caption Red-shirted protesters blew whistles and banged drums in Barcelona Protesters formed human towers and demanded the release of separatist leaders who are in detention awaiting trial following the independence campaign. One elderly protester at the rally, Dolors Llauralo, told Reuters she would continue the battle. “I will demonstrate every year, as long as I can… I fight for [my children and grandchildren] so they will have a better life than the one we have had,” she said. Read more stories on the Catalonia crisis: More protests are planned on the key anniversary dates of the referendum and declaration of independence.

However, opponents complained the Diada was being usurped as independence was not supported by all Catalans. Catalonia’s situation “not very serious”, says Josep BorrellSpanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrel, who is Catalan, said: “We Catalans should celebrate our national day and not just a call for independence that is shared by less than half of the population.” An opinion poll in July suggested 46.7% of Catalans favoured independence and 44.9% opposed it.

 

Brexit: 80 Tory MPs will reject Chequers plan says former minister

The Conservatives face a “catastrophic split” if Theresa May relies on Labour votes to push her Chequers plan through parliament, one of the prime minister’s most persistent critics has warned, as the conflict within the party over Brexit intensified. After a weekend dominated by coverage of Boris Johnson’s views on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and his tangled personal life, the former junior Brexit minister Steve Baker used an interview to mark 200 days before departure to argue May must take a different approach. Baker, who quit in July over Chequers, said at least 80 Conservative MPs would be willing to vote against the plan, which Eurosceptics argue ties the UK too closely to the EU on regulation and alignment, hampering future bilateral trade deals. The issue is expected to dominate the Conservatives’ annual conference at the end of the month, with MPs from the hard-Brexit-backing European Research Group (ERG), which Baker formerly chaired, hoping to sink the Chequers proposal. “If we come out of conference with her hoping to get Chequers through on the back of Labour votes, I think the EU negotiators would probably understand that if that were done, the Tory party would suffer the catastrophic split which thus far we have managed to avoid,” Baker told the Press Association.

“We are reaching the point now where it is extremely difficult to see how we can rescue the Conservative party from a catastrophic split if the Chequers proposals are carried forward. “It is absolutely no pleasure whatsoever to me to acknowledge that, but I look at the mood of colleagues and the mood of the Conservative party in the country and I am gravely concerned for the future of our party.” While it is widely acknowledged that Johnson, who also wants May to abandon the Chequers plans, is seeking to position himself as the next prime minister, Baker said he was not advocating a change in leadership. “Time is running awfully short for anyone who thinks a leadership contest and a general election is a good idea,” the Wycombe MP said. The justice secretary, David Gauke, disputed Baker’s assessment. Asked by Sky News if Baker’s view was accurate, he said: “No, I don’t think it is.” Gauke castigated Baker and fellow Eurosceptics for not having a coherent plan of their own: “This is a process that is going to require compromises from all sides. And I think it is really important that we go forward with the Chequers proposal. Frankly, there isn’t an alternative that has been put on the table by the critics of Chequers. We haven’t had an alternative set out.”

Gauke was similarly critical of Johnson after a furore over an article by the former foreign secretary on Sunday, in which he argued May’s Brexit plans amounted to “a suicide vest around the British constitution”. “I don’t think his comments yesterday were well judged,” Gauke said. “And, returning to the substance, I don’t think he’s set out an alternative approach to Brexit, in contrast to the Chequers plan. This is a time where we have to seriously address the issues in front of us, have a serious plan to deal with the situation. The prime minister is a serious politician who has set out serious plans.” Asked later by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme as to whether he could serve under Johnson, Gauke said there was no vacancy, adding: “I’m probably not a natural Boris supporter.” The former education secretary Nicky Morgan likened the “suicide vest” comment to a previous Johnson article in which he likened Muslim women wearing the niqab to “letterboxes”. Both were “deliberately incendiary language which just masks the ability to debate the issues”, she said. Morgan added: “Boris has to make a decision – I think he’s sort of made it. He’s either a journalist or a he’s a politician. He knew exactly what he was doing when he was using that language.” Baker and his ERG allies are seeking a so-called Canada-plus deal, which would be based around free trade, but with notably more limited alignment to EU rules. The ERG has been drawing up its alternative Brexit plan based on this.

A draft leaked over the weekend showed it also called for significant tax cuts, something strongly argued for by Johnson in his weekly column for the Daily Telegraph on Monday. Baker said the ERG had decided to hold back on the publication of its detailed plan in order to focus on a plan to avoid a hard Irish border after Brexit, which he said was the “key to the gate” to a satisfactory agreement. Another ERG member, the Tory MP Simon Clarke, told Today he believed this was possible, adding: “The Northern Irish border issue is one that has been greatly exaggerated and abused. I think, for Irish domestic political reasons and by the EU itself. I think there are good reasons to believe that if you want to solve the problem then you can.”

 

Boris Johnson launches fresh attack on May’s Brexit plans

Boris Johnson launches fresh attack on May’s Brexit plans

Boris Johnson has used his first newspaper column of the new parliamentary term to attack Theresa May’s Chequers plan, saying it means the UK enters Brexit negotiations with a “white flag fluttering”. The declaration amounts to a significant escalation the former foreign secretary’s guerrilla campaign against the prime minister and her Chequers plan a day before the Commons returns and at a time when party disquiet over the direction of the divorce talks is mounting. Johnson wrote that “the reality is that in this negotiation the EU has so far taken every important trick.

The UK has agreed to hand over £40 billion of taxpayers’ money for two thirds of diddly squat”. Johnson added that by adopting the Chequers plan, which will see the UK adopt a common rule book for food and goods, “we have gone into battle with the white flag fluttering over our leading tank”. It will be “impossible for the UK to be more competitive, to innovate, to deviate, to initiate, and we are ruling out major free trade deals,” he added. The intervention comes after a summer in which the former minister, who resigned over the Chequers deal, had avoided touching on Brexit in his Daily Telegraph column – although he did unleash a storm of complaint by describing fully veiled Muslim women as looking like letter boxes and bank robbers. It will be seen as preparing the ground for a leadership challenge to May just as the Brexit negotiations reach their critical phase in the autumn, which is to culminate in any final deal agreed by the UK government being put to parliament for a vote. The Commons returns for just over a week on Tuesday, the first chance for Conservative MPs to compare notes about the state of grassroots feeling over Brexit. Many ordinary members, who have the right to chose between the final two candidates chosen by MPs, are unhappy with Chequers, fearing the plan amounts to a loss of sovereignty. Johnson called on May to return to the argument of her Lancaster House speech of January 2017. He said that on the current plan: “We will remain in the EU taxi; but this time locked in the boot, with absolutely no say on the destination. We won’t have taken back control – we will have lost control.” Another group of Tory MPs is also set on halting the Chequers plan.

The 20 backbench rebels, including former ministers Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith, have joined the StandUp4Brexit group, a grassroots campaign that has vowed to tear up the EU negotiations to date. Right wing Tories are expected to offer their own alternatives to the Chequers plan in the coming weeks, arguing that the UK should instead strike a free trade deal with the EU, in which the country would leave the single market and customs union. But it is not clear how far the EU will be willing to go along with anything that enhances the UK’s competitive position. On Sunday, David Davis, another former cabinet minister, criticised May for admitting she would have to make compromises to the EU beyond the Chequers agreement in order to achieve a Brexit deal.

The former Brexit secretary told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that he could not vote for what has been proposed because it was worse than staying in. Davis, who also resigned because he said he could not endorse the Chequers deal, was speaking after the prime minister had said in a column for a Sunday newspaper that she would “not be pushed into accepting compromises” on the Chequers plan that are “not in our national interest”. He said May’s words amounted to “an incredible open sesame”, arguing the problem with the UK position was that it was “not the last step” for the EU, and Brussels would not accept it. On the same programme, the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, indicated the government may have to make further concessions. He said the EU had to understand “this is a negotiation”, and added: “We have already set out what we think is a reasonable position for the UK to have in our future trading relationship with Europe. We are waiting for the EU to come back to us with their view.”

 

Anti-Semitism row: Corbyn has been misinterpreted, says close ally

Anti-Semitism row: Corbyn has been misinterpreted, says close ally

Corbyn a ‘danger’ to British Jews, says ex chief rabbi. Labour can resolve its anti-Semitism crisis quickly, John McDonnell has said, insisting Jeremy Corbyn’s views on Israel have been “misinterpreted”.

The shadow chancellor told the BBC that the party should accept in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance guidelines on anti-Semitism, as long as free speech was protected. But ex-Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said Mr Corbyn must also “repent and recant”. And ex-PM Gordon Brown said Labour must act now or undermine its values. Speaking at a meeting of Jewish Labour MPs in London, Mr Brown said the party needed to be “cleansed of anti-Semitism and racism”. The party has been beset by arguments over the issue throughout the summer, prompting two MPs – John Woodcock and Frank Field – to resign the whip and others to threaten to do the same. Eighteen months of rancour within the party over claims of growing anti-Semitism came to a head last month when footage from 2013 emerged of Mr Corbyn saying a group of British Zionists had “no sense of English irony” despite a lifetime in the country. Labour MP Luciana Berger said it made her “feel unwelcome” in the party while Lord Sacks branded his comments as “the most offensive statement” by a politician since the late Conservative MP Enoch Powell’s 1968 Rivers of Blood speech.

Ex-chief rabbi ‘wrong’ over Corbyn anti-Semitism attackSpeaking publicly for the first time since he made those remarks, the former chief rabbi told the Andrew Marr show he stood by his criticism of Mr Corbyn and suggested British Jews were considering leaving the country because of the prospect of him becoming prime minister. “Jeremy Corbyn must repent and recant as quickly as possible,” he said. “When people hear the kind of language that’s been coming out of Labour, that’s been brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat.

Former MP Ivor Caplin, who is chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said it and other groups were only prepared to have a dialogue with Mr Corbyn if he made it “very clear” that he would take firm action against anti-Semites in the party and others engaging in “bad behaviour” at a local level. Amid growing warnings that Labour was facing a 1980s-style split, Mr McDonnell said the party must remain a “broad church” and he hoped Mr Field would “come back into the fold”. The Birkenhead MP, a former welfare minister, quit the Labour group at Westminster on Thursday over what he called the party’s “tolerance” of anti-Semitism and a “culture of nastiness”. While Labour MPs who resigned the whip should normally trigger a by-election, Mr McDonnell said in this case he did not want to “go anywhere near that” given Mr Field’s long service to the party.

 

Boris who? Kenyan leader makes a joke at Johnson’s expense

Boris who? Kenyan leader makes a joke at Johnson’s expense

Last month he was foreign secretary, today he became “bicycle guy” when Kenya’s president delivered a humiliating putdown to Boris Johnson to avenge the multiple insults the British politician has thrown at Africa over the years. As President Kenyatta, standing next to Theresa May during her first visit to his country, sought to recall the earlier visit by the former foreign secretary, his memory abruptly failed him. “Last year, if you recall, the foreign secretary then, Boris,”

Mr Kenyatta began as his eyes darted towards Mrs May as he faltered. “Erm, Boris, Boris Johnson . . . yeah bicycle guy — that one! Boris Johnson was here.” Mrs May allowed herself a wry smile as the president eventually “remembered” the name of her former cabinet…

Theresa May, danced, literally –

Germany hit by worst far‑right riots in 30 years

Far-right protestors face off in Chemnitz Germany has been shaken by the worst far-right rioting in almost 30 years after police failed to stop thousands of neo-Nazis and far-right sympathizers chasing immigrants through the city of Chemnitz, hurling bottles and fireworks, giving Hitler salutes and chanting “foreigners out”. The violence was triggered by the fatal stabbing of 35-year-old Daniel Hillig, who has a German mother and a Cuban father, after an altercation with a group of men on Saturday night.

Police have arrested one man from Syria and one from Iraq on suspicion of manslaughter. Police denied a rumour that swept social media that Mr Hillig was attacked after he had intervened to stop migrants from sexually harassing women in the city, in the southeast of Germany. Angela Merkel, the chancellor,… Want to read more? Register with a few details to continue reading this article

 

France ‘prepared’ to help forge EU deal with UK after Brexit

France ‘prepared’ to help forge EU deal with UK after Brexit

The French president will push EU leaders to make a post-Brexit deal with the UK at an upcoming meeting. Emmanuel Macron aims to use an EU summit next month to put pressure on the bloc’s leaders to push for a partnership with Britain. At the meeting in Salzburg, Austria, Mr Macron will outline a new structure for European alliances, based on “concentric circles” with the EU and Euro at its core and the UK in a second ring, according to The Times. The newspaper quoted a diplomatic source saying: “He sees a no-deal scenario as something that would break links and poison relations at a time when Europe needs to be united beyond the EU.” Mr Macron has said that any Brexit deal must not damage the EU’s integrity.

It comes as the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier offered words of optimism, saying: “We are prepared to offer Britain a partnership such as there never has been with any other third country.” Image: Michel Barnier said the EU respected the UK’s ‘red lines’ His words helped trigger a sharp rise for sterling, seeing the pound rise to its highest level for weeks. “We respect Britain’s red lines scrupulously,” Mr Barnier said during a news conference in Berlin. “In return, they must respect what we are. Single market means single market. There is no single market a la carte.”

Following his comments, the pound rose to more than $1.30 for the first time in over three weeks. Sterling jumped by a cent against the dollar, and was also up by a cent against the euro at just over €1.11. Mr Barnier’s comments came as Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab admitted the UK and EU might miss October’s deadline for agreeing a divorce deal. With negotiations still deadlocked on issues such as the Irish border, Mr Raab called for “renewed energy” to push an agreement over the line. Giving evidence to the House of Lords’ EU select committee, Mr Raab said: “It is important as we enter the final phase of the negotiations in the lead up to the October council and the possibility that it may creep beyond that, we want to see some renewed energy.

Pound rises as EU’s Barnier hints at ‘ambitious’ Brexit deal “We’re bringing the ambition and the substance of our white paper on the future relationship and also, I think, some pragmatism to try and go the extra mile to get the deal that I think is in both sides interests. “We need that to be matched obviously – it’s a negotiation.” His comments appear to confirm reports that EU and UK officials are now aiming to finalise divorce terms by the middle of November at the latest, which could prompt an emergency Brussels summit. Mr Raab also said a no-deal Brexit could alter the payments of the UK’s £39bn divorce bill to Brussels. Mr Raab’s fellow Brexiteers have argued no money is payable to the EU if there is no final agreement. Earlier on Wednesday, de facto deputy prime minister David Lidington delivered a warning to both Brussels and Tory Brexiteers. He urged them to swallow their opposition to Theresa May’s Chequers plan for the future UK-EU relationship or risk no deal.

Mr Lidington told a French business conference: “With exactly seven months until the end of Article 50 process and less than two months ahead of the October European Council, we face the choice between the pragmatic proposals we are discussing now with the European Commission, or no deal. “The alternative models do not meet the level of ambition or the outcome we all want to see delivered. “So, we need the EU to engage with us on our positive vision of the future relationship.”

 

May is shown the Robben Island cell where Mandela was held captive

May is shown the Robben Island cell where Mandela was held captive

Theresa May is shown the Robben Island cell where Nelson Mandela was held captive for nearly two decades Theresa May has visited the Robben Island cell where Nelson Mandela was held The PM was granted the privilege of going inside the cell to view the conditions Visit came as Mrs May was in Cape Town as part of a three-day tour of Africa  By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline In Cape Town, South Africa Published: 19:08, 28 August 2018 | Updated: 09:27, 29 August 2018 Theresa May today visited the prison where Nelson Mandela was held captive for nearly two decades. The Prime Minister received a guided tour and was handed a key to open the cell of the man who went on to become South African president. After viewing the conditions first hand, Mrs May signed the guestbook, writing: ‘It has been a privilege to visit in this year – the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.

The Prime Minister today received a guided tour and was handed a key to open the cell of the man who went on to become South African president Nelson Mandela (pictured) was held prisoner on Robben island for nearly two decades ‘His legacy lives on in the hopes and dreams of young people here in South Africa and around the world.’  But earlier Mrs May had faced awkward questions on her record campaigning for Nelson Mandela’s release in the Seventies and Eighties. The Prime Minister was repeatedly asked what she did to campaign for Mr Mandela’s freedom during the apartheid era. Mrs May was asked by Channel 4 News whether she felt ‘guilty’ for not doing more at the time, as she prepared to visit Robben Island. Mrs May, who is in South Africa as part of a three-day trade mission to the continent, responded: ‘What I will be feeling when I go to Robben Island is to recognise the immense statesmanship of a man who spent so many years incarcerated and when he came out of that incarceration had that breadth of vision and that calm approach that has enabled South Africa to be built into the country that it is today.’

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Mandela death: How he survived 27 years in prison
Robben Island: A view into Mandela′s prison life

Before the visit, Mrs May had faced awkward questions on her record campaigning for Nelson Mandela’s release in the Seventies and Eighties Asked if she went on any protests at the time, she said: ‘I think you know full well that I didn’t go on protests. ‘But what is important is the work that the United Kingdom government did to ensure that it was able to give support where that support was needed. She added: ‘What is important was the support that the UK government was giving at the time. Often support behind the scenes, but in other ways too, to ensure that we saw the result that we did in relation to the ending of Apartheid.’