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Parting shot from Boris

‘Brexit dream is dying’ says Johnson in stinging letter to PM

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has resigned as foreign secretary less than 24 hours after Brexit secretary David Davis quit the government


 

Theresa May moved swiftly to shore up her government by appointing Jeremy Hunt as new Foreign Secretary to replace Boris Johnson who became the second senior minister in 24 hours to resign over the prime minister’s Brexit plan.

Mr Johnson’s departure followed the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis late on Sunday night. The pair quit in protest at the prime minister’s compromise deal with her cabinet for a soft Brexit, which was agreed on Friday at Chequers.

Mrs May said she was “sorry – and a little surprised” by Mr Johnson’s move after his apparent support on Friday, when ministers held talks at Chequers.

She said the deal agreed by the cabinet after their “productive discussions” at Chequers would “honour the result of the referendum” and allow the UK to “take back control of our borders, our law and our money”.

Mr Johnson said nothing in the hours immediately following his resignation but later his letter to the Prime Minister was released in which he said to Mrs May that the UK appeared to be “heading for a semi-Brexit” and would take on “the status of a colony” under her Brexit plans.

He said: “We are truly headed for the status of a colony – and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantage of that particular arrangement.”

He expressed his disappointment at the way the process was unfolding and how the British people had been promised to take back control of their democracy.

“They were told they would be able to manage their own immigration policy, repatriate the sums of UK cash currently spent by the EU and, above all, that they would be able to pass laws independently and in the interests of the people of this country.

“Brexit should be about opportunity and hope. It should be a chance to do things differently, to be more nimble and dynamic, and to maximise the particular advantages of the UK as an open, outward-looking global economy.

“That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt.”

Accepting that he had initially gone along with the Chequers deal, he states that he quickly realised he could not support it.

He said that on Friday he had “congratulated you [Mrs May] on at least reaching a Cabinet decision on the way forward. As I said then, the government now has a song to sing. The trouble is that I have practised the words over the weekend and find that they stick in the throat.”

Boris Johnson’s resignation letter


 

Following the double resignation sterling fell half a cent against the dollar to trade at $1.3257. Against the euro, it fell back to €1.1273. The pound had been in positive territory after investors bet that Mr Davis’s departure meant a “softer” Brexit was more likely.

But analysts warned sterling was likely to fall further if Mr Johnson launched a leadership challenge to Theresa May.

The decision by the former mayor of London, who has been foreign secretary since June 2016, could trigger a vote of no-confidence in Mrs May.

Should 48 MPs send letters of no confidence to the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee then the prime minister would face such a vote, and were she to lose it, then a leadership challenge would ensue.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “This afternoon, the prime minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.

“His replacement will be announced shortly. The prime minister thanks Boris for his work.”

The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019, although there is yet to be an agreement on how the two sides will handle trade.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said: “The country is at a standstill with a divided and shambolic government. The prime minister can’t deliver Brexit and has zero authority left.”

Meanwhile, housing minister Dominic Raab has been appointed as Brexit Secretary in the wake of Mr Davis’s departure from the government. The 44-year-old was a prominent Leave campaigner during the 2016 referendum.

Matt Hancock is the new Health and Social Care Secretary, Downing Street said. Kit Malthouse has become the new housing minister and Attorney General Jeremy Wright is the new culture secretary.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “At this vital time for our country’s future, people across Britain want – above all – a UK government negotiating with one voice on the Brexit deal it seeks to achieve.

“I support Theresa May in leading such efforts in the days ahead. The Prime Minister made clear this weekend that collective cabinet responsibility must be observed on Brexit.

“If individual ministers can’t sign up to that, then it is only right they are no longer part of the government.

“For Scotland, those proposals will provide business with frictionless access to the EU, ensure we leave the Common Fisheries Policy, and make clear there will not be a border in the Irish Sea.”

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford  said that Mr Johnson should have been sacked for being a ‘national embarrassment’ months ago and his resignation today shows a Prime Minister with no authority and a government that has become an ‘chaotic circus’.

He said: ‘”At this absolutely crucial moment the Tories should be focussed on the Brexit negotiations, but yet again they are all putting their own selfish political interest ahead of the interests of the country.

“As the UK inches closer to a cliff-edge no-deal scenario – which threatens enormous damage to jobs, investment and living standards across Scotland and the rest of the UK – we see a government in chaos, and a Prime Minister struggling to lead her party, never mind her government.’”

See also:

Brexit Secretary resigns over May’s ‘close ties’ plan

Comment: May should use resignations to assert her authority

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