Amber Rudd says Boris Johnson is 'backseat driving' over Brexit

Frederick Owens
September 18, 2017

Boris Johnson has been criticised by the head of the UK Statistics Authority for repeating the infamous claim that Britain pays £350m per week to the EU.

Sir Craig Oliver, former director of communications at Downing Street for David Cameron, said even if the genuine intention was to support the Prime Minister, it was obvious it would be seen in Westminster as a "direct challenge".

"It is the job of the rest of us in the Cabinet to agree on a set of proposals and get behind those proposals and get behind the prime minister", Green told BBC TV.

But a spokesman for the UK Statistics Authority said: "Sir David Norgrove does not believe the issues lie exclusively with the headlines".

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics programme, he said: "The timing is pretty second order in the big scheme of things but to pick up from what Amber said it is absolutely clear to everyone that the driver of the vehicle in this instance is the Prime Minister". "I think it is absolutely fine".

If, as appears likely, the Tory leader indulges Mr Johnson, it re-enforces the impression that Mrs May is at the mercy of her more Eurosceptic ministers and MPs who are in no mood to compromise.

But the in-depth article on life after March 2019 was released just six days before the Prime Minister sets out her Brexit blueprint in a speech in Florence. A favorite with grassroots members of the Conservative Party, Johnson had been expected to challenge for the leadership after May gambled away her parliamentary majority in a June election she did not need to call.

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Asked if he viewed himself as "Theresa May's Willie", a reference to Margaret Thatcher's remarks about her reliance on deputy Willie Whitelaw, he replied: "I was a huge admirer of Willie Whitelaw in my youth and absolutely I would be very content to have him as a role model".

May's deputy, Damian Green, also weighed in on Sunday, saying that Johnson had written a "very exuberant" article but it is "absolutely clear to everyone that the driver of the auto in this instance is the prime minister".

Boris Johnson has repeated the controversial claim that the United Kingdom will save £350m a week once it leaves the European Union, and that a large proportion of this money should be spent on the NHS.

A source close to Ms Davidson said: "We want to see a united and clear vision from the party".

Johnson's only comment since his Telegraph article was published was on Twitter, where he said he was "looking forward" to May's speech in Florence later this week.

He insisted Brexit would allow the United Kingdom to "be the greatest country on earth" and "our destiny will be in our own hands".

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