Minister claims ‘new dynamic’ created over deal
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.