Tory min­is­ter re­signs with de­mand for a fi­nal say vote

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS | BREXIT - BY ROB MERRICK

JO John­son dra­mat­i­cally quit as Trans­port Min­is­ter yes­ter­day, brand­ing Theresa May’s Brexit plan a “con” and de­mand­ing a fi­nal say ref­er­en­dum.

The Re­main-sup­port­ing brother of Boris John­son de­scribed the Prime Min­is­ter’s ne­go­ti­a­tions as a “fail­ure of Bri­tish state­craft on a scale un­seen since the Suez cri­sis”.

In a dev­as­tat­ing in­dict­ment of Mrs May’s strat­egy, he ac­cused her of plan­ning to trap the UK in a “bound­less tran­si­tionary pe­riod” for years, with key con­tro­ver­sies un­de­cided.

Warn­ing Bri­tain “stands on the brink of the great­est cri­sis since the Sec­ond World War”, Mr John­son added: “The demo­cratic thing to do is to give the pub­lic the fi­nal say.”

The res­ig­na­tion was not im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by any other min­is­te­rial walk­outs, but was a se­ri­ous blow to Mrs May’s hopes of a smooth path to an agree­ment next week.

It came as the DUP stepped up its threats to vote against it over the Ir­ish bor­der “back­stop”. It ac­cused the Prime Min­is­ter of be­tray­ing her prom­ise not to sign a with­drawal deal that could open the door to a cus­toms bor­der in the Ir­ish sea.

In a long ar­ti­cle, Mr John­son said it was “in­creas­ingly clear” that the with­drawal deal “will be a ter­ri­ble mis­take”, say­ing: “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 nodeal 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.”

Mr John­son be­came the ninth Tory MP to back a fresh ref­er­en­dum. He wrote: “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.

“This would not be about re­run­ning the 2016 ref­er­en­dum, but about ask­ing peo­ple whether they want to go ahead with Brexit now that we know the deal that is ac­tu­ally avail­able to us, whether we should leave with­out any deal at all or whether peo­ple on bal­ance would rather stick with the deal we al­ready have in­side the Euro­pean Union.”

The res­ig­na­tion im­me­di­ately drew praise from Boris John­son — even though the pair walked out of the Gov­ern­ment from op­po­site sides of the Brexit con­tro­versy.

“Bound­less ad­mi­ra­tion as ever for my brother Jo,” the for­mer For­eign Sec­re­tary tweeted. “We may not have agreed about Brexit but we are united in dis­may at the in­tel­lec­tu­ally and po­lit­i­cally in­de­fen­si­ble of the UK po­si­tion.”

Con­ser­va­tive Party sup­port­ers of a ‘fi­nal say’ ref­er­en­dum were quick to re­act.

Anna Soubry tweeted: “Huge re­spect for @JoJohn­sonUK. It’s tough re­sign­ing from a min­is­te­rial post, he’s done the right thing. Now is the time for peo­ple to stand up for what they be­lieve in or we will sleep­walk to a #Brexit dis­as­ter.”

Jenny Chap­man, Labour’s shadow Brexit min­is­ter, said Mr John­son was the 18th min­is­ter to quit Mrs May’s Gov­ern­ment, adding: “She has lost all author­ity and is in­ca­pable of ne­go­ti­at­ing a Brexit deal within her own party, let alone with the EU.”

Down­ing Street 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. The prime min­is­ter thanks Jo John­son for his work in Gov­ern­ment.”

Re­signed: Jo John­son

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