Broth­ers ‘united in dis­may’ at PM’S deal

Re­mainer Jo John­son quits over Brexit, say­ing he shares the frus­tra­tion of Leave-sup­port­ing Boris

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Gor­don Rayner Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

THERESA MAY’S hopes of get­ting a Brexit deal through Par­lia­ment were dealt a ma­jor blow last night af­ter Jo John­son, the trans­port min­is­ter, re­signed so he could vote against the Prime Min­is­ter’s “ter­ri­ble mis­take”.

The Re­main-sup­port­ing brother of Boris John­son said Bri­tain now “stands on the brink of the great­est cri­sis since the Sec­ond World War”, with Mrs May about to present MPS with a choice be­tween “vas­salage and chaos”.

He said he and Boris – who led the Leave cam­paign – were now “united in dis­may” as he ac­cused Mrs May of the worst “fail­ure of British state­craft” since the Suez cri­sis. He said he now backed a sec­ond EU ref­er­en­dum.

Hav­ing lost both John­son broth­ers from her Gov­ern­ment, Mrs May faces the com­bined heft of their op­po­si­tion as Boris leads the Brex­i­teer re­volt against her plans and Jo ral­lies the Re­main­ers.

Down­ing Street had hoped Jo John­son would help per­suade fel­low Tory Eu­rophiles to back the with­drawal agree­ment – which Mrs May wants to fi­nalise next week – but in­stead there are now fears that other min­is­ters could fol­low him out of the door. The cri­sis deep­ened as the DUP, whose 10 MPS give Mrs May her work­ing ma­jor­ity, threat­ened to vote against the deal af­ter she hinted she could sign up to a North­ern Ire­land-only back­stop agree­ment.

Writ­ing in The Daily Tele­graph, Ar­lene Fos­ter says Mrs May will “hand­cuff the UK to the EU, with the EU hold­ing the keys” and claims she has the back­ing of Cab­i­net min­is­ters.

It means Mrs May now faces the very real pos­si­bil­ity of de­feat in the Com­mons vote on the Brexit deal, which is ex­pected next month. That in turn would in­crease the chances of a nodeal Brexit or a gen­eral elec­tion.

Mr John­son said in a blog that Mrs May was try­ing to “con” the British peo­ple be­cause “what is now be­ing pro­posed won’t be any­thing like what was promised two years ago”.

He said Boris “re­cently ob­served that the pro­posed ar­range­ments were ‘sub­stan­tially worse than stay­ing in the EU’”, adding: “On that he is un­ques­tion­ably right. If th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions have achieved lit­tle else, they have at least united us in fra­ter­nal dis­may.”

He said “a no-deal out­come may well be bet­ter than the never-end­ing pur­ga­tory the Prime Min­is­ter is of­fer­ing the coun­try” and said it was time to ask vot­ers if they still wanted Brexit.

Boris John­son, who re­signed as for­eign sec­re­tary over Mrs May’s Che­quers plan for Brexit, tweeted his “bound­less ad­mi­ra­tion” for his brother, while the Re­main-sup­port­ing Tories Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry also backed his stance. Mrs May yes­ter­day held Brexit talks with Em­manuel Macron dur­ing a trip to France to take part in First World War com­mem­o­ra­tion events.

IN BRI­TAIN’S post-war pol­i­tics few fam­i­lies, if any, have been both as ever-present and in­flu­en­tial as the John­sons. From the fa­ther Stan­ley’s un­re­mark­able be­gin­nings in the West Coun­try, they’ve climbed the twin sum­mits of jour­nal­ism and pol­i­tics to be­come a cen­tral fea­ture of West­min­ster. Like rats, “in Lon­don, you’re never more than a few feet from at least two John­sons” joked Rachel John­son in an ar­ti­cle last year. Un­til now, how­ever, the rest of the John­sons have been only a sup­port­ing cast in the ex­trav­a­ganza that is Boris’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

That is un­til Jo John­son chose to re­sign from the Cab­i­net yes­ter­day and back calls for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. While Boris was quick to back his brother – if not a “peo­ple’s vote” – and Jo talked of be­ing “united… in fra­ter­nal dis­may”, might the two now face off in a Cain and Abel like strug­gle for the fu­ture of Bri­tain, with Boris at the head of a re­vived Brexit cam­paign and Jo gath­er­ing the re­newed forces of Re­main around him?

Boris’s rise is well known. From Brus­sels Cor­re­spon­dent for The Daily Tele­graph to ed­i­tor of The Spec­ta­tor, twice an MP ei­ther side of be­ing Mayor of Lon­don, then fig­ure­head for Vote Leave, failed lead­er­ship can­di­date, and lat­terly For­eign Sec­re­tary.

His brother Jo, younger by seven years, was al­ways the quiet one. He too made his name in jour­nal­ism. But rather than mim­ick­ing the ex­u­ber­ant re­port­ing of his el­der brother in this news­pa­per, he pur­sued a slow, steady and con­sid­ered ca­reer at the Fi­nan­cial Times, with post­ings in Paris and New Delhi, be­fore turn­ing to pol­i­tics.

In his early years in the House, the dis­tinc­tion stuck. Jo de­clared dur­ing his maiden speech: “Any­one hop­ing that I will en­liven pro­ceed­ings in the man­ner of my el­der brother, the for­mer Mem­ber for Henley, is likely to be dis­ap­pointed.”

Once in Par­lia­ment, the quiet pro­gres­sion con­tin­ued: di­rec­tor of No10’s pol­icy unit, min­is­ter for the cab­i­net of­fice, then min­is­ter for uni­ver­si­ties. Step by step, no cat­a­pult­ing straight from the back benches into a great of­fice of state like his brother.

Yet few who know him would doubt Jo’s am­bi­tion. And af­ter the 2017 elec­tion, he ap­peared to be sharp­en­ing his lead­er­ship cre­den­tials. The staid pol­icy wonk was sud­denly tak­ing on a very pub­lic of­fen­sive against the threat to free speech in uni­ver­si­ties and ap­point­ing Toby Young, the Right-wing provo­ca­teur, as head of the uni­ver­si­ties watch­dog. The lat­ter move was be­hind his ef­fec­tive de­mo­tion to the rather less pub­lic role of trans­port min­is­ter.

But now, in be­com­ing the first min­is­ter to re­sign in or­der to push for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, might he be­come the leader Re­mainer MPS crave and be the John­son to fi­nally cross the thresh­old of No10?

It would take one hell of a per­for­mance and a se­ries of highly un­likely events to unite the Tory party be­hind a Re­mainer, but the idea that Jo might bolt from the side­lines to pip Boris to Down­ing Street would be the ul­ti­mate slap in the face for the for­mer For­eign Sec­re­tary.

How­ever fa­mous Boris has be­come, his younger brother’s in­tel­lec­tual achieve­ments have al­ways been a

‘A vic­tory for his younger brother would be the sec­ond time Boris was out­done by a man he sees as his ju­nior’

cause for jeal­ousy. While both went to Eton and then Bal­liol Col­lege Ox­ford, only Jo achieved a first. When Boris’s sis­ter Rachel rang to tell him the re­sult, she asked: “Have you heard the bad news about Jo? He got a first.”

A vic­tory for his younger brother would be the sec­ond time Boris was out­done by a man he per­ceives as his ju­nior. David Cameron was two years be­low him at Eton, and mas­ters barely re­call him. John­son was a ver­i­ta­ble star, des­tined for glory. Yet it was Boris hav­ing to show def­er­ence to Dave the Prime Min­is­ter, a bona fide mem­ber of the elite from birth who leapfrogged him to power.

Beaten once by a younger, more priv­i­leged school­mate, might he be stung once more by a younger, sharper si­b­ling?

Jo John­son, so fre­quently over­shad­owed by Boris, left, pic­tured leav­ing Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day af­ter re­sign­ing as trans­port min­is­ter

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