Boris Johnson’s brother quits, calls for second vote on Brexit
Jo Johnson has resigned from Theresa May’s Government in protest at her Brexit plan, warning the country faced a choice between “vassalage” under her proposed deal or the “chaos” of crashing out of the EU.
Mr Johnson quit as transport minister and minister for London in order to vote against the Brexit deal whenever it comes before Parliament and called for the public to be given a second referendum. The senior Tory, who campaigned for Remain, follows his Leave-supporting brother Boris Johnson out of Mrs May’s government.
The former foreign secretary quit in July in protest at Mrs May’s handling of Brexit.
In a blog explaining his decision, Jo Johnson said: “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 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.”
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 news came as a fresh blow to Theresa May’s Brexit plans, which were earlier struck by her Democratic Unionist Party allies, who hit out at fears that a deal could impose barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
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 caused frustration in Downing Street, with sources insisting that Mrs May was not hiding behind “weasel words” and had stressed that she would not accept a deal which saw Northern Ireland hived off. The European Union’s fallback proposal aimed at avoiding a hard border between Ireland and the UK would effectively keep Northern Ireland aligned with Brussels’ customs union and single market. 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 the whole of the UK.
But Brussels appears set to insist on a Northern Irelandonly “backstop to the backstop” in case negotiations on a wider UK approach break down or any time limit on it expires.