Gove and Pa­tel back Boris vi­sion for Brexit

Cab­i­net min­is­ters sup­port calls for bolder ap­proach, but May al­lies re­act with fury

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - By Christo­pher Hope and Gor­don Rayner

MICHAEL GOVE and Priti Pa­tel have thrown their weight be­hind Boris John­son’s bid to pres­sure Theresa May into de­liv­er­ing a bolder and more op­ti­mistic Brexit.

The two Cab­i­net min­is­ters, who led the Vote Leave ref­er­en­dum cam­paign with Mr John­son last year, are back­ing his de­mand that, af­ter Brexit, Bri­tain makes good on a pledge to spend some of the hun­dreds of mil­lions that the UK sends to the EU on the NHS.

The For­eign Sec­re­tary set out his vi­sion for post-Brexit Bri­tain in a 4,0000word ar­ti­cle in yes­ter­day’s Tele­graph. It sent a shock wave through West­min­ster and was seen by Mr John­son’s crit­ics as an at­tempt to reignite his hopes of lead­ing the Con­ser­va­tive Party.

Mr John­son pub­lished his plans af­ter he was left “fum­ing” that a key Down­ing Street com­mit­tee met with­out him last week. He had planned to set out his March 2019 Brexit vi­sion in a ma­jor speech but was un­able to do so.

It came as Mrs May was putting the fin­ish­ing touches to her own 5,000word vi­sion for Bri­tain af­ter Brexit, which she will de­liver as a speech on Fri­day in Florence, Italy.

Mr John­son is un­der­stood to have become alarmed by ru­mours that Mrs May wants to sig­nal that Bri­tain is pre­pared to pay a Brexit bill run­ning into tens of bil­lions of pounds.

The Sun­day Tele­graph can dis­close that Mr Gove, the En­vi­ron­ment Se­cre- tary, and Ms Pa­tel, the In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary, both sup­port spend­ing a large pro­por­tion of the money cur­rently sent to Brus­sels on the NHS af­ter Brexit.

Mr John­son and Mr Gove are said by col­leagues to be “talk­ing and en­gag­ing again”, de­spite their fall­ing out last year when Mr Gove first backed, and then with­drew, his sup­port for Mr John­son to be Tory leader. A White­hall source said: “Boris and Michael have said to Down­ing Street that the £350mil­lion [NHS fund­ing] prom­ise was made to Leave vot­ers and we’ve got to fol­low through with that when we leave the EU. Both of them are also of one mind when it comes to the Brexit bill.”

Mr Gove’s for­mer ad­viser, Dominic Cummings, who was Vote Leave’s cam­paign di­rec­tor, also weighed in yes­ter­day, sup­port­ing Mr John­son’s plans for the NHS, a re­formed tax sys­tem and a hous­ing pol­icy. The col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the three lead­ing Brex­i­teers has in­trigu­ing im­pli­ca­tions for any fu­ture lead­er­ship bid by Mr John­son, who has told friends he will not chal­lenge Mrs May be­fore Brexit has taken place.

Ms Pa­tel is also keen on a more up­beat and pro-free mar­ket Brexit. One of her friends said: “The prin­ci­ple has to be that gov­ern­ment pol­icy is re­claim­ing con­trol of our money and that gives us the free­dom to spend it how­ever we

wish on our do­mes­tic pri­or­i­ties, which is what she said dur­ing the cam­paign.”

Mr John­son’s de­ci­sion to re­peat the £350mil­lion fig­ure in his ar­ti­cle on Satur­day has raised eye­brows be­cause the fig­ure was crit­i­cised by the UK Sta­tis­tics Author­ity dur­ing the Brexit cam­paign, which said that Bri­tain’s net con­tri­bu­tion to the EU was only £248mil­lion, as the UK re­ceives a re­bate.

There was a caus­tic re­ac­tion from other min­is­ters with some call­ing on Mrs May to sack Mr John­son. One said it “just p----- us off ” that Mr John­son had raised the £350mil­lion claim again.

Philip Ham­mond, the Chan­cel­lor, was also said to be “very an­gry” about the ar­ti­cle, which pointed out the Trea­sury, “has not so far sought to pun­ish the Bri­tish peo­ple with an emer­gency bud­get”. A for­mer Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ter said Mr John­son was now “sail­ing within an inch of be­ing thrown out of the Gov­ern­ment”.

But Gerard Lyons, an eco­nomic ad­viser to Mr John­son when he was Mayor of Lon­don, backed Mr John­son’s vi­sion of a bolder, cleaner Brexit in a new book se­ri­alised in to­day’s Sun­day Tele­graph.

No 10 at­tempted to down­play any rift with Mr John­son. One Down­ing Street source said: “These are Boris’s well-known, well-pub­li­cised views.

“He is re­stat­ing his po­si­tion and is very clearly back­ing the PM’s strat­egy on Europe. We see it as try­ing to make sure that his views are re­flected in the Florence speech.”

Daniel Han­nan: Page 20 Gerard Lyons: Busi­ness

Boris John­son left his Lon­don home for the coun­try yes­ter­day af­ter his Brexit in­ter­ven­tion sent shock waves through the Tory Party

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