‘A fog of self doubt’: Boris Johnson launches brutal attack on May’s ‘dithering’ Brexit strategy in Commons resignation speech
- Theresa May is enduring another torrid day after just surviving Brexit challenge
- Boris Johnson is making a statement on his resignation to House of Commons
- Mrs May narrowly survived Remainer rebellion over customs union last night
Boris Johnson launched a brutal attack onTheresa May’s ‘dithering’ Brexit strategy today in his first Commons speech since quitting.
The former foreign secretary waded back into the political fray as the Prime Minister struggles to contain open warfare in the Tory party.
He complained that a ‘fog of self doubt’ had descended on the government after Mrs May’s Lancaster House speech last year, and she had allowed the process to be dominated by questions about the Irish border.
He said the Chequers plan Mrs May forced through Cabinet went from the ‘bright’ vision she originally set out to put the country in ‘lock step’ with the EU.
Mr Johnson triggered chaos in the government on Monday last week when he resigned days after the summit at the PM’s country residence.
Allies of the premier have been braced for him to make a bid to oust her – although sources close to the MP have stressed he will not make a ‘personal’ assault.
Mrs May is not in the chamber for Mr Johnson’s statement, as she must run the gauntlet of a grilling by senior MPs on the Liaison Committee this afternoon, before a showdown with restive Tory backbenchers at a private meeting tonight.
Mr Johnson said a ‘fog of self doubt’ had descended on Mrs May since her Lancaster House speech last year
At PMQs at lunchtime, Mrs May was goaded by backbencher Andrea Jenkyns over when she decided that ‘Brexit means Remain’
Mr Johnson was flanked by former aide Conor Burns on the famous green benches, as well as Brexiteer Nadine Dorries. David Davis, who also resigned last week, was also nearby.
‘The result of accepting the EU’s rule books and of our prosposals for a fantastical Heath Robinson customs arrangement is that we have much less scope for trade agreements,’ he said.
Mr Johnson accused the PM of ‘saying one thing to the EU.. and another thing to the electorate’.
‘It;s not too late to save Brexit. We have changed tack once in these negotiations, and we can change tack again.’
In a rallying cry to Eurosceptics, Mr Johnson said that Mrs May had not even attempted to take a tough line with the EU.
‘We haven’t even tried. We must try now because we will not get another chance to get it right,’ he warned.
He said it was not possible to do a ‘botched treaty now’ and then ‘break and reset the bone later on’.
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Mr Johnson said the Chequers deal would leave Britain in ‘limbo’ and the government must ‘believe’ in the country.
Earlier, Mrs May was goaded at PMQs by Conservative backbencher Andrea Jenkyns who demanded to know when she had decided that ‘Brexit means Remain’.
But amid jeers in the Commons a clearly frustrated Mrs May hit back that she was still committed to leaving the EU and wanted a ‘workable’ solution.
The clashes, at a raucous last questions session before the summer recess, came after Mrs May narrowly fended off a potentially existential challenge to her negotiating strategy last night.
Amid dramatic scenes at Westminster last night, a dozen Conservative Remainers defied warnings they would collapse the Government by siding with Jeremy Corbyn to demand Britain stays in the EU customs union.
Mrs May has repeatedly insisted that the UK must not be in a customs union, as it would prevent trade deals being struck elsewhere.
But rebels ignored warnings from Tory chief whip Julian Smith that defeat would prompt him to call a vote of confidence in Mrs May today, followed by a possible general election.
Tory insiders said another ten Eurosceptic MPs would have sent in letters of no confidence in Mrs May if she had lost last night’s vote – potentially pushing the total over the 48 needed to spark a leadership challenge.
Rebels inflicted an early defeat on the Government when they voted to keep Britain tied into the European Medicines Agency after Brexit by 305 votes to 301.
But, minutes later, the tables were reversed as MPs voted by 307 to 301 to reject an amendment to the Trade Bill ordering the PM to pursue a continuation of the customs union.
Five Labour MPs voted with the Government: former ministers Frank Field and Kate Hoey and backbenchers John Mann, Graham Stringer and Kelvin Hopkins, who is currently sitting as an independent following suspension. If they had voted the other way, the Government would have lost by four votes.
Brexiteer Ms Jenkyns has become a thorn in the side of the PM, calling her premiership ‘over’
Mr Johnson triggered chaos in the government on Monday last week when he resigned days after Mrs May forced her Chequers Brexit plan through Cabinet.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson was in the chamber for PMQs earlier – positioned close to the seat where Geoffrey Howe delivered his famous attack on Margaret Thatcher after quitting as chancellor in 1990
Attacking her leader at PMQs, Ms Jenkyns – who has already urged Mrs May to quit – asked: ‘Could the Prime Minister inform the House at what point it was decided that Brexit means Remain?’
Mrs May insisted that her mantra of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ still stood.
‘At absolutely no point, because Brexit continues to mean Brexit,’ she replied.
‘And if I can say to her, I know she wants us to talk about the positives of Brexit and I agree with her.
‘We should be talking about the positive future for this country. I understand she’s also criticised me for looking for a solution that is workable.
Mr Johnson was in the chamber for PMQs, positioned close to the seat where Geoffrey Howe delivered his famous attack on Margaret Thatcher after quitting as chancellor in 1990.
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