Boris Johnson hits out at Theresa May over her Brexit plan, says it will leave Britain 'tethered to EU'

Boris Johnson launched a fierce broadside at the prime minister to kick off Parliament's return to business after its summer break.

Agence France-Presse September 03, 2018 18:34:42 IST
Boris Johnson hits out at Theresa May over her Brexit plan, says it will leave Britain 'tethered to EU'

London: British prime minister Theresa May's Brexit blueprint came under heavy attack on Monday, with pro-Brexit figurehead Boris Johnson calling it a surrender that hands "victory" to European Union (EU).

Boris Johnson hits out at Theresa May over her Brexit plan says it will leave Britain tethered to EU

File image of Boris Johnson. PTI

Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary in July over May's proposed future relationship between London and Brussels, launched a fierce broadside at the prime minister to kick off Parliament's return to business after its summer break.

Meanwhile 20 MPs in May's centre-right Conservative Party publically pledged to reject her so-called Chequers plan, which would keep Britain close to the EU on trade. The unrest comes as Parliament returns on Tuesday, with just weeks to go before the mid-October deadline set by London and Brussels to strike a withdrawal agreement.

May's sea of troubles swelled after the EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier strongly opposed her blueprint, saying it could lead to the downfall of European integration.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Johnson — the bookmakers' favourite to take over from May — said Britain has "gone into battle with the white flag fluttering over our leading tank". "The inevitable outcome is a victory for the EU, with the UK lying flat on the canvas with 12 stars circling symbolically over our semi-conscious head," he said.

Johnson claimed the real "scandal" was "not that we have failed, but that we have not even tried" on Brexit.

'Serious plan'

Responding to Johnson's attack, May's official spokesman said, "Boris Johnson resigned over Chequers. There's no new ideas in this article to respond to. "What we need at this time is serious leadership with a serious plan and that's exactly what the country has with this prime minister and this Brexit plan."

The plan envisages Britain leaving the single market but staying in a free trade area for goods and agri-foods through a customs deal and common rule-book with the EU. Johnson and his fellow hardline Brexiteers think the Chequers plan, named after the prime minister's country residence, keeps Britain too closely aligned to the bloc.

20 Conservative MPs made a joint public commitment on Monday to block May's proposal, joining the StandUp4Brexit campaign. They said Chequers would hamper Britain's ability to strike its own free trade deals, cut Northern Ireland off from the rest of the UK and keep the European judiciary ruling over Britain.

May's Conservative minority government has a working majority of nine votes in Parliament's 650-seat lower House of Commons, thanks to the backing of Northern Ireland's nine Democratic Unionist Party MPs.

However, the Commons chamber is broadly split into four camps. Some MPs ultimately want Britain to remain in the EU; some want a complete break with Brussels; some back Chequers, while others want a different type of Brexit.

Barnier, May standing firm

Former Brexit secretary David Davis, who like Johnson quit over Chequers, backed May to stay in her post. "It is absolutely possible to dump Chequers without changing leader," he told The Times newspaper.

Barnier opened the door to a brief extension of talks to nail down a deal, saying negotiations must be completed "by mid-November". But, speaking to German newspaper The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he reiterated his hostility to Chequers. "I strongly oppose the British proposal," he said. "We have a coherent market for goods, services, capital and people - our own ecosystem that has grown over decades. You can not play with it by picking pieces."

May insisted on Sunday that she would not be railroaded by Brussels as the talks come to the crunch. "I will not be pushed into accepting compromises on the Chequers proposals that are not in our national interest," she wrote in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

Britain is due to leave the EU at the end of March.

Updated Date:

Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro at ₹499 for the first year. Use code PRO499. Limited period offer. *T&C apply

also read

Microsoft, EU publishers push for Australia-like system to make big tech platforms pay for news
News & Analysis

Microsoft, EU publishers push for Australia-like system to make big tech platforms pay for news

Microsoft will be working with EU on a solution to “mandate payments” for use of news content from online “gatekeepers with dominant market power.”

British government backs potential UK and Ireland bid to host 2030 World Cup
Sports

British government backs potential UK and Ireland bid to host 2030 World Cup

The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar, while the 2026 tournament is to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

England plans to lift lockdown by 21 June: Schools, outdoor picnics to resume by 8 March, shops in April
World

England plans to lift lockdown by 21 June: Schools, outdoor picnics to resume by 8 March, shops in April

The final stage of the plan, in which all legal limits on social contact are removed and nightclubs can reopen after being shuttered for 15 months, is penciled in for 21 June