Johnson attacks May's 'dithering' over Brexit

Mr Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons in London yesterday. He tore apart Prime Minister Theresa May's strategy, calling it "Brexit in name only", and appealed to lawmakers to "save Brexit".
Mr Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons in London yesterday. He tore apart Prime Minister Theresa May's strategy, calling it "Brexit in name only", and appealed to lawmakers to "save Brexit".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Former foreign secretary dismisses British PM's plan as 'enforced vassalage' under EU

LONDON • Britain's former foreign secretary Boris Johnson yesterday attacked Prime Minister Theresa May's "dithering" over Brexit negotiation, dismissing her plan as "enforced vassalage" as Britain remains under some European Union rules.

Mr Johnson, a thorn in Mrs May's side when he was in office, used a parliamentary convention to explain his decision to resign from government 10 days after quitting.

While praising Mrs May's "courage and resilience", he tore apart her Brexit strategy.

"We dithered and burned through our negotiating capital," Mr Johnson told lawmakers. "Worst of all we allowed the question of the Northern Ireland border to dominate the debate."

"This is Brexit in name only," Mr Johnson said of the plans Mrs May agreed with most of her Cabinet at her country retreat Chequers.

"It is not too late to save Brexit," Mr Johnson added.

NOT TOO LATE

We have time in these negotiations, we have changed tack once and we can change again.

It is not too late to save Brexit.

MR BORIS JOHNSON, Britain's former foreign secretary, urging Parliament to rethink its strategy.

After 18 months of stealthy retreat we have come from the "bright certainties" of Mrs May's Lancaster House speech to the "miserable permanent limbo" of the Chequers agreement, he said.

The former London mayor was the face of the Brexit campaign in 2016.

In his resignation letter, he argued that the Prime Minister's latest plan was a signal to the Brexit-voting public that the referendum was being betrayed by too soft an exit strategy from the EU.

The Brexit "dream is dying", he said, and Britain was heading for the status of a "colony". When a photo shoot was staged for Mr Johnson's signing of his resignation letter, murmurs of leadership ambitions swirled again.

US President Donald Trump on his visit to Britain last week had said Mr Johnson would make "a great prime minister".

Mr Johnson's words are being closely watched because of historic precedents.

In 1990, for example, Mrs Margaret Thatcher's deputy prime minister Geoffrey Howe's barbed resignation speech over Britain's relationship with Europe prompted another member of her Cabinet to launch a leadership bid.

Mr Johnson, who spent two years as foreign secretary under Mrs May, was noted for his gaffes abroad. His former Cabinet colleague David Davis quit hours before Mr Johnson last week.

Since then, Mr Davis has given multiple media interviews in which the former Brexit secretary criticised Mrs May's approach to negotiations but backed her leadership.

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, had not made any public statement on Mrs May's leadership since he took the decision to go.

In a column in Monday's Daily Telegraph, he limited himself to appealing for a more "positive" view of Britain's prospects after Brexit.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2018, with the headline 'Johnson attacks May's 'dithering' over Brexit'. Print Edition | Subscribe