LONDON • Boris Johnson (picture) has decided not to quit as foreign secretary over UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s soft Brexit plan because he wants to remain in Cabinet and fight for the divorce he wants, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
As the most prominent supporter of Brexit in the Cabinet, and as a vocal critic of May’s vision for close ties with the European Union (EU), Johnson might have been expected to walk out once May told ministers that they had to back her plans or leave. Brexit-supporting Conservative lawmakers privately questioned why he hadn’t.
The reason, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity, is that Johnson believes May would have gone for an even closer relationship with the EU if he hadn’t been making the case against it. He believes he will have to fight the eurosceptic cause even harder in the future, and that he’s best placed to do that inside the Cabinet, the person said.
It’s similar to the argument Johnson made two weeks ago when he explained why, despite having promised to fight with all his strength against a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, he hadn’t resigned once that became government policy.
“My resignation would have achieved absolutely nothing,” he said then, before avoiding a vote on the issue by travelling abroad.
The prime minister was emphatic last Friday that she would no longer tolerate the kind of open dissent she’s seen from Johnson and others in the past year. It remains to be seen whether the foreign secretary will be less vocal.