Theresa May has seized on the optimism of Donald Trump and world leaders over Brexit to face down a growing rebellion from Cabinet colleagues and backbenchers.
President Trump personally assured Mrs May that a powerful trade deal between the US and the UK would be completed very, very quickly, as they met at the G20 in Hamburg.
In a pointed rebuke of critics, Mrs May played up the prospects of increasing trade with “old friends and new partners” after leaving the EU, including China, India and Japan.
It will be seen as a dismissal of Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, who said that not remaining as close as possible to the EU would be “madness”, and business leaders lobbying to stay in the single market and customs union.
The intervention comes as a new front to the Tory Brexit rebellion emerged on Sunday, with MPs publicly criticising Mrs May’s stance on the European Court of Justice [ECJ].
Three former ministers – Ed Vaizey, Dominic Grieve and Nicky Morgan – tell the Telegraph that they have concerns about ruling out any links with the ECJ after Brexit.
The Prime Minister continues to be dogged by leadership speculation despite public support from the Cabinet after losing her Tory majority in the Commons at the election.
Mrs May will attempt to steady her fragile new Government with a relaunch speech next week that will set out her ambitions for domestic reform and delivering Brexit.
Her meeting with Mr Trump – the pair’s second round of formal talks – lasted for 50 minutes rather than the scheduled half-hour and was dominated by trade discussions.Holding a string of bilateral meetings with world leaders on Saturday, Mrs May said she received a series of positive messages about trade co-operation after Brexit.
US president said: We are working on a trade deal – a very, very big deal, a very powerful deal, great for both countries, and I think we’ll have that done very, very quickly.
We have all of our trade people. We have [US trade minister] Wilbur Ross with us. We have all of the trade people.
Prime Minister May and I have developed a very special relationship, and I think trade will be a very big factor between our two countries.
Mr Trump’s comments on Brexit could not be more different to those of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who said Britain would be at the “back of the queue” for trade deals if it left the EU.
They will be seen by pro-Brexit campaigners as perhaps the biggest vindication to date of their argument that Britain can be more prosperous outside the EU than in it.
The president also confirmed that he will be coming to Britain for a state visit, at an unspecified time. Mrs May later declined to confirm if he would visit this year.
Other world leaders gave similarly positive views of improving trade links after Brexit, according to Downing Street sources.
Mrs May met Japan’s president Shinzo Abe for a 20-minute meeting, around half of which was devoted to talking about a trade deal.
President Abe agreed that a recently concluded trade deal between the EU and Japan could form the basis for a future deal between Japan and Britain.
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi was very positive about a post-Brexit trade deal, according to a government source.
Mr Modi said he wanted to see the economic relationship between the two countries getting deeper both now and after Brexit and would work with Mrs May to put a concrete plan in place.
On Friday, President Xi told Mrs May that Chinese investment in the UK had increased since the EU referendum which shows China’s confidence in the UK, according to government sources. He agreed it was a golden era for Anglo-Chinese relations.
After days of questioning over whether Mrs May’s Brexit plan will damage the economy, the Prime Minister used her G20 press conference on Saturday to highlight support from world leaders.
She said: “Britain has always been a great trading nation and as we leave the EU we will seize the exciting opportunities to strike deals with old friends and new partners.
I’ve held a number of meetings with other world leaders at this summit and have been struck by their strong desire to forge ambitious new bilateral trading relationships with the UK after Brexit.
This is a powerful vote of confidence in British goods, British services, Britain’s economy and the British people and we look forward to building on these conversations.
The reaction I’ve got from other world leaders is the optimism they show … [about] our future trade arrangements.
A member of the British delegation at the G20 said: We have taken very positive messages away from the meetings we have had here.