So brazen, di­vi­sive and Churchillian, the opus was pure Boris

The Mail on Sunday - - Bojo's Brexit Revolt - By GLEN OWEN PO­LIT­I­CAL CORRESPONDENT

BORIS JOHN­SON’S 4,000-word opus boils with frus­tra­tion at Theresa May’s di­rec­tion of travel on Brexit – and is more no­table for what it doesn’t say than what it does.

Boris flatly re­fuses to en­dorse a tran­si­tion pe­riod.

While even the most ar­dent Leavers in the Govern­ment now ac­cept that the UK should re­main in the sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union for two to three years af­ter March 2019, while new trade deals are struck, Boris stub­bornly re­sists.

To do so, he says, would ‘make a com­plete mock­ery of Brexit and turn an op­por­tu­nity into a na­tional hu­mil­i­a­tion. It would be the worst of both worlds, with the UK turned into a vas­sal state’.

He also rebels against the grow­ing White­hall con­sen­sus that the UK should make multi­bil­lion pound ‘di­vorce’ pay­ments dur­ing the tran­si­tion to un­block ne­go­ti­a­tions, say­ing: ‘We would not ex­pect to pay for ac­cess to their mar­kets any more than they would ex­pect to pay for ac­cess to ours’.

This is not a mi­nor dis­tinc­tion which can be eas­ily fi­nessed: it blows a clear hole in No 10’s strat­egy just days be­fore the most im­por­tant speech of the Prime Min­is­ter’s life, when she sets out her own Brexit plan in Florence on Friday.

Boris’s un­em­bar­rassed ref­er­ence to his ref­er­en­dum pledge to re­turn £350 mil­lion a week from Brus­sels to the NHS shows how de­ter­mined he is to de­fend him­self against claims of back­slid­ing. He re­peats the cam­paign mantra, say­ing: ‘We will take back con­trol of roughly £350 mil­lion per week. It would be a fine thing if a lot of that money went on the NHS’.

The For­eign Sec­re­tary also is­sues a warn­ing to Chan­cel­lor Phillip Hammond, the Cab­i­net’s most pow­er­ful ad­vo­cate for a tran­si­tionary ‘soft’ Brexit, by say­ing that the Trea­sury has not ‘so far’ sought to pun­ish the Bri­tish peo­ple for vot­ing for Brexit by de­liv­er­ing an ‘emer­gency Bud­get’ of the sort so con­tro­ver­sially threat­ened by for­mer Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne be­fore the vote.

An­other give­away that the ar­ti­cle is de­signed to lay down a marker for a veiled lead­er­ship bid comes in the tone, which chan­nels the rhetor­i­cal flour­ish of his great hero, Win­ston Churchill.

In con­trast to Theresa May’s con­sti­pated ver­bal for­mu­las, Boris strikes a con­sciously pos­i­tive, op­ti­mistic note – push­ing the pa­tri­otic but­ton with lines such as: ‘Of all the kings, queens, pres­i­dents and prime min­is­ters in the world, one in seven was ed­u­cated in this coun­try’.

He con­cludes by con­demn­ing the ‘griev­ous er­ror’ of ‘all those who wrote off this coun­try, who think we don’t have it in us, who think that we lack the nerve and the con­fi­dence to tackle the task ahead’.

He’s blown a clear hole in No 10’s strat­egy

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