A former Tory minister who campaigned to leave the European Union has revealed she told her fellow Brexiteers not to celebrate when they won the vote in 2016.
Ex-defence secretary Penny Mordaunt admitted she was immensely proud the country had voted to leave the EU but she knew the Government would need to reassure people who wanted to remain in the bloc.
“The day before I had emailed Matthew Elliott [former Chief Executive of Vote Leave] to caution against celebrations,” the Conservative MP for Portsmouth North told Brexit Central.
She added: “There would be many people feeling upset and concerned.
“Number 10 was going to go into meltdown as it would not have crossed their minds they were going to lose.
“We needed to move quickly to reassure people, Remain voters especially.”
She said leaving the EU would have been easier if David Cameron had been replaced as Prime Minister by a Brexiteer rather than Theresa May, who campaigned to remain in the EU.
Mrs Mordaunt added the results of the 2017 general election when the Conservatives lost their majority meant Brexit could not be completed within the original timeframe.
She said she never doubted it would happen but felt another general election was needed to elect Boris Johnson with a majority so he could secure the country’s withdrawal from Europe.
Mr Johnson plans to take the UK out of the EU on January 31.
European Commission president President Ursula von der Leyen, who took over from Jean Claude-Juncker last month, said Brexit would be “tough and emotional”.
In a speech in London on Wednesday, she said: “But when the sun rises again on February 1, the United Kingdom and the European Union will still be the best of friends and partners.
“The bonds between us will still be unbreakable.”
But she did warn the UK it faced “consequences” if it does not align with Brussels’ rules after Brexit.
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Ms Von der Leyen said the tight negotiating timetable would force the European Union to “prioritise” unless there was an extension beyond 2020.
The threat means Brussels could be entertaining only a skeleton free trade deal before the December 2020 deadline in order to avoid a no-deal situation.
Mr Johnson has said the UK will not follow EU rules after Brexit but Ms von der Leyen, who will be meeting with the Prime Minister in Downing Street on Wednesday, said that would create a “distant” relationship.