BORIS JOHNSON SETS OFF A FIRESTORM FROM THE BACKBENCHES, ACCUSING PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY OF ‘DITHERING’ ON BREXIT AND LOSING THE PLOT IN A ‘FOG OF SELF-DOUBT.’ IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SAVE IT, HE SAYS.
Ex-mayor said to have ambitions for 10 Downing
Boris Johnson, the former British foreign secretary, attacked Prime Minister Theresa May’s “dithering” over Brexit negotiation, dismissing her plan as “enforced vassalage” as the U.K. remains under some European Union rules.
Johnson, a thorn in May’s side when he was in office, used a parliamentary convention to explain his decision to resign from government 10 days after quitting. He tore apart her Brexit strategy.
“We dithered and burned through our negotiating capital,” Johnson told lawmakers Wednesday. “This is Brexit in name only,” Johnson said of the plans agreed by May and most of her Cabinet two weeks ago at her country retreat called Chequers. “It is not too late to save Brexit.”
After 18 months of stealthy retreat we’ve come from the “bright certainties” of a speech the prime minister gave in January 2017 to the “miserable permanent limbo” of the Chequers agreement, he said.
He said a “fog of selfdoubt has descended” over the government.
The former London mayor was the face of the Brexit campaign in 2016.
In his resignation letter, he argued that the prime minister’s latest plan was a signal to the Brexit-voting public that the referendum was being betrayed by too soft an exit strategy from the EU. The Brexit ”dream is dying”, he said, and Britain was heading for the status of a ”colony.”
“It is absolute nonsense to imagine — as I fear some of my colleagues do — that we can somehow afford to make a botched Treaty now, and then break and reset the bone later on.”
When a photo shoot was staged for the signing of Johnson’s resignation letter, murmurs of leadership ambitions swirled again. And then Donald Trump last week said Johnson would make ”a great prime minister.”
Johnson’s words are being closely watched, because of historic precedents. In 1990, for example, Margaret Thatcher’s deputy prime minister Geoffrey Howe’s barbed resignation speech over the U.K.’s relationship with Europe prompted another member of her cabinet to launch a leadership bid.
Johnson, who spent two years as foreign secretary under May, was noted for his gaffes abroad. His former cabinet colleague David Davis quit hours before Johnson last week.
Since then, he has given multiple media interviews in which the former Brexit secretary criticized her approach to negotiations but backed her leadership.
Johnson, meanwhile, had not made any public statement on May’s leadership since he took the decision to go. In a column in Monday’s Daily Telegraph he limited himself to appealing for a more “positive” view of the U.K.’s prospects after Brexit.