May deal will leave UK ‘in chains’ says Boris
BORIS Johnson inflamed Tory Brexit infighting last night by unveiling his own blueprint for leading Britain out of the crisis over Theresa May’s proposed deal.
Signalling his readiness for a leadership challenge, the former foreign secretary declared that the nation was crying out for “gumption” over the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
And he accused the Prime Minister of pursuing a “sado-masochistic approach” that could leave Britain “locked up in chains”.
Mr Johnson broke cover yesterday as Mrs May was warned by allies she had just 48 hours to save her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and her premiership. MPs are due to vote on it on Tuesday and she is expected to lose.
In an interview with popular grassroots website Conservative Home, Mr Johnson called for a “generous, optimistic, energetic” renegotiation to win “a big free trade agreement” without the controversial “backstop” Northern Ireland border mechanism that could tie the UK into close customs links with Brussels.
He insisted the UK should refuse to hand over the promised £39billion divorce fee until the EU offers better terms and said British negotiators should show they are not afraid of trade links with the bloc based on World Trade Organisation rules – in effect a No Deal exit.
He said: “I don’t want to pretend to the public there would be no disruption at all. I don’t want to pretend there would be no challenges at all.
“But what people I think want to see is a bit of gumption from this country and a bit of willingness to tackle those problems, and a bit of leadership.
“And I think people are fed up of being told their country can’t do something and we’re all incapable of sorting out these logistical problems.”
Deploying characteristically colourful language, Mr Johnson attacked the Prime Minister’s negotiation saying: “The manacles have been co-forged, if you like, by us. We have decided to collaborate in our own incarceration.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a kind of S&M approach to Government. What perversion is it where you want to be locked up in chains?”
The former foreign secretary continued: “What she needs to do, or what the Government needs to do, is go back to Brussels and make it very clear that Parliament has not accepted the Withdrawal Agreement.
“This deal is a disaster for our country. It basically means the EU can blackmail us into any terms they like in the course of the negotiations on our future.”
The Prime Minister and senior Cabinet ministers were expected to spend this weekend bombarding Tory MPs with phone calls, emails and text messages to try to win their backing.
She dispatched 30 ministers including Chancellor Philip Hammond and Health Secretary Matt Hancock around the country yesterday to try to persuade voters to put pressure on MPs.
And in a further bid to win over rebels ahead of the vote ministerial sources signalled that the Government was ready to back an amendment that would seek to limit the controversial backstop Northern Ireland border mechanism to a maximum of a year.
But Mrs May was warned that more frontbenchers may quit on Tuesday unless drastic changes are made to her deal. Mike Wood, the parliamentary private secretary to International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, said he would quit his post unless the backstop was overhauled, adding that other aides were considering their positions.
A joint letter signed by 32 senior Tory activists demanded the immediate end to party funding for “propaganda” leaflets in support of Mrs May’s Brexit deal.
And Eurosceptic group Lawyers for Britain warned in a report that detailed analysis of the Withdrawal Agreement showed Northern Ireland would remain subject to more than 300 EU laws after Brexit and would effectively be ruled by a “foreign power”.
Praying for success? Theresa May at a church in her constituency yesterday