May must change Brexit tack to stay in power - ex-leader Hague

Britain's former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs William Hague makes a speech supporting remaining in the EU, at Chatham House in London, Britain, June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Dan Kitwood/Pool

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May needs to start cooperating with businesses and other parties on Brexit if her government is to survive, former Conservative Party leader William Hague said.

Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary between 2010 and 2014, said this change of strategy would have to take place in the next few weeks before divorce talks with the European Union begin in earnest.

Despite her party’s expectations of a landslide victory, May lost her majority in parliament in last week’s election, pushing her into rushed talks on a support agreement with a small eurosceptic Northern Irish Protestant party.

On Monday a spokesman for May said her original approach to Brexit - which focused on limiting immigration, coupled with a threat to walk away without a deal if necessary - had not changed.

But she has come under increasing pressure from lawmakers in her own party to soften her stance. Late on Monday she acknowledged to her members of parliament that a broader consensus is needed around Brexit.

“Change the emphasis given to the UK’s objectives, with a clear indication that economic growth will have priority over controlling the number of people entering the country for work,” Hague said in a column published by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“This would show a readiness to accommodate the views of Scottish Conservatives, business organisations and, to some degree, opposition parties, within certain parameters.”

Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by Guy Faulconbridge