LONDON • UK lawmakers called for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to be red after he threw himself back into the Brexit debate with a newspaper article that was seen as undercutting Prime Minister Theresa May days before she is set to refresh her own strategy for the split.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph a day after a failed bomb attack in London, the figure-head of last year’s campaign to leave the European Union (EU) outlined what he called a “glorious” vision for the UK outside of the bloc, prompting criticism he is undermining May and possibly reviving his own leadership ambitions. Home Secretary Amber Rudd described it as “backseat driving”.
“It puts May in an impossible position, I can’t understand why she hasn’t fired him,” Vince Cable, leader of the Opposition Liberal Democrats, said on the BBC. “He has a completely and utterly different view of what Brexit means from the rest of the Cabinet,” he said, adding that the “civil war” in May’s government will hamper talks with the EU.
Unidentified lawmakers within May’s Conservative Party were cited by newspapers, including the Mail on Sunday and the Observer, as demanding Johnson’s ouster for a move seen as a bid to replace her. Ruth Davidson, the party’s Scotland leader, tweeted that “on the day of a terror attack where Britons were maimed, just hours after the threat level is raised, our only thoughts should be on service”.
First Secretary of State Damian Green, effectively May’s deputy, told Sky News on Sunday that Johnson will not lose his job over his intervention or its timing. He insisted May’s government is united in its determination to deliver Brexit.
“No, he isn’t,” Green said when asked about a possible Johnson dismissal. “The reason is that he, like the rest of the Cabi- net, like the prime minister, is all about wanting to get the best deal for the British people.”
Johnson argued that the UK should not pay to access Europe’s single market for goods and services after Brexit, countering an idea suggested as possible by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Brexit Secretary David Davis. He also revived the much-criticised claim that by leaving Britain will free up as much as £350 million (RM2 billion) a week to spend on healthcare.
Seeking to paint Brexit as positive for the UK economy as it shows signs of weakening, Johnson said quitting the EU would allow the government to strike new trade deals, revamp the tax system, reboot infrastructure projects, advance science and improve access to housing.
“This country will succeed in our new national enterprise, and will succeed mightily,” he said, dismissing any suggestion that Brexit will be reversed.
Rudd said that while John- son’s article was “backseat driving” over Brexit, it was “absolutely fine” for him to intervene. She also made it clear she doesn’t want him leading the party.
“Boris has had his say and he shows that energy and enthusiasm that he’s famous for,” Rudd told the BBC. “I don’t want him managing the Brexit process, what we’ve got is Theresa May managing that process, she’s driving the car and I’m going to make sure we help her do that.”
Johnson wrote in the article, which was published behind the Telegraph’s paywall, that the separation should take the form outlined by the prime minister in January and which he argued the majority of Britons voted for in June 2016. — Bloomberg