Min­is­ter claims ‘new dy­namic’ cre­ated over deal

Yorkshire Post - - POLITICS & ECONOMY -

JO JOHN­SON, brother of Boris, yes­ter­day dra­mat­i­cally quit Theresa May’s Gov­ern­ment over Brexit and called for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

In an­other highly dam­ag­ing blow for the Prime Min­is­ter’s Brexit strat­egy, the for­mer Rail Min­is­ter warned that her “fail­ure of British state­craft” has left the coun­try with an unac­cept­able choice be­tween “vas­salage” un­der her pro­posed deal or the “chaos” of crash­ing out of the EU with no deal. Two sources told

that be­tween four to five Min­is­ters who are sym­pa­thetic to a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum are also con­sid­er­ing whether to fol­low Mr John­son out of the exit door to back a so-called Peo­ple’s Vote.

The Or­p­ing­ton MP’s res­ig­na­tion fol­lows his Leave-sup­port­ing brother’s de­ci­sion to quit as For­eign Sec­re­tary in July over Mrs May’s Brexit plan.

But Jo John­son’s res­ig­na­tion is ar­guably more dam­ag­ing as it ap­pears to in­crease the prospect of Re­main and Leave Tory MPs unit­ing to vote down Mrs May’s Brexit deal.

In a dev­as­tat­ing blog ex­plain­ing his de­ci­sion, Mr John­son wrote: “It has be­come in­creas­ingly clear to me that the with­drawal agree­ment, which is be­ing fi­nalised in Brus­sels and White­hall even as I write, will be a ter­ri­ble mis­take.

“In­deed, the choice be­ing pre­sented to the British peo­ple is no choice at all.

“The first op­tion is the one the Gov­ern­ment is propos­ing: an agree­ment that will leave our coun­try eco­nom­i­cally weak­ened, with no say in the EU rules it must fol­low and years of un­cer­tainty for busi­ness.

“The sec­ond op­tion is a no-deal Brexit that I know as a trans­port min­is­ter will in­flict un­told dam­age on our na­tion.

“To present the na­tion with a choice be­tween two deeply unattrac­tive out­comes, vas­salage and chaos, is a fail­ure of British state­craft on a scale un­seen since the Suez cri­sis.”

He added: “Given that the re­al­ity of Brexit has turned out to be so far from what was once promised, the demo­cratic thing to do is to give the pub­lic the fi­nal say.”

The Re­main-back­ing Min­is­ter was im­me­di­ately praised by his Brex­i­teer brother and other top Euroscep­tics such as David Davis and Mor­ley MP An­drea Jenkyns, although they did not back a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

Boris John­son backed his brother’s de­ci­sion, say­ing: “We may not have agreed about Brexit but we are united in dis­may at the in­tel­lec­tu­ally and po­lit­i­cally in­de­fen­si­ble UK po­si­tion.”

Jo John­son ac­knowl­edged that the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions “have at least united us in fra­ter­nal dis­may”.

He said that the terms of the Brexit deal be­ing dis­cussed with the EU would mean de­cid­ing key is­sues in the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship be­ing put off while the UK is kept in a “bound­less tran­si­tionary pe­riod”.

“This is a con on the British peo­ple: there is no ev­i­dence that the kind of Brexit that we’ve failed to ne­go­ti­ate while we are still mem­bers can be mag­i­cally agreed once the UK has lost its seat at the ta­ble.”

He ac­knowl­edged that a nodeal Brexit could re­sult in “Kent be­com­ing the Lorry Park of Eng­land”, with real ques­tions about guar­an­tee­ing sup­plies of food and medicines.

But even a no-deal Brexit “may well be bet­ter than the nev­erend­ing pur­ga­tory” that Mrs May’s plan would of­fer.

How­ever, in a pointed mes­sage to his brother and other Tory Brex­i­teers, he said: “In­flict­ing such se­ri­ous eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal harm on the coun­try will leave an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion of in­com­pe­tence in the minds of the pub­lic.

“It can­not be what you wanted nor did the 2016 ref­er­en­dum pro­vide any man­date for it.”

He said the pub­lic should be asked to con­firm their de­ci­sion to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, whether to ac­cept the Prime Min­is­ter’s plan or leave with­out a deal.

A Down­ing Street spokesman said: “The ref­er­en­dum in 2016 was the big­gest demo­cratic ex­er­cise in this coun­try’s his­tory.

“We will not un­der any cir­cum­stances have a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.” AGREE­MENT ON a Brexit deal with Brus­sels will cre­ate a “new dy­namic” in Par­lia­ment which would help se­cure sup­port for Theresa May’s plans, a key ally of the Prime Min­is­ter claimed be­fore Jo John­son quit as Rail Min­is­ter yes­ter­day.

But the frag­ile al­liance keep­ing the Prime Min­is­ter in power was al­ready be­ing strained as the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party railed against mea­sures it fears will cre­ate a bor­der down the Ir­ish Sea be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the rest of the UK.

David Lid­ing­ton, the de facto deputy prime min­is­ter, said he hoped that once a deal was on the ta­ble MPs would rally be­hind it.

Hopes of an im­mi­nent break­through in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions have so far failed to be met.

But both Mr Lid­ing­ton and Ire­land’s Leo Varad­kar sug­gested a deal could be reached be­tween the UK and EU in the com­ing weeks.

The Taoiseach said: “A suc­cess­ful out­come is not guar­an­teed but I think it is pos­si­ble in the next cou­ple of weeks.”

Ten­sions be­tween Mrs May and her DUP al­lies have been ex­posed amid con­cerns about mea­sures aimed at avoid­ing a hard bor­der on the is­land of Ire­land.

DUP leader Ar­lene Fos­ter said the Prime Min­is­ter ap­peared “wed­ded to the idea of a bor­der down the Ir­ish Sea” de­spite Down­ing Street’s re­peated as­sur­ances to the con­trary.

The re­sponse of the DUP has caused frus­tra­tion in Down­ing Street, with sources in­sist­ing that Mrs May was not hid­ing be­hind “weasel words” and had stressed she would not ac­cept a deal which saw North­ern Ire­land hived off.

A leaked let­ter from the Prime Min­is­ter in re­ply to an ear­lier mes­sage from Mrs Fos­ter and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, set out Mrs May’s ap­proach.

She wants a “back­stop” mea­sure which would cre­ate a tem­po­rary “joint cus­toms ter­ri­tory” with the EU for all of the UK.

But Brus­sels ap­pears set to in­sist on a North­ern Ire­land-only “back­stop to the back­stop” in case ne­go­ti­a­tions on a wider UK ap­proach break down.

For­mer Trans­port Min­is­ter Jo John­son, brother of Boris John­son, has quit the Gov­ern­ment over Brexit.

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