'Not too late to save Brexit': ex-foreign secretary Johnson

Frederick Owens
July 19, 2018

"We dithered and we burned through our negotiating capital", he told MPs.

He denounced it as "Brexit in name only", said it would leave the United Kingdom in a state of "vassalage" and demanded a return to May's original red lines of total withdrawal from the customs union and single market in order, he said, to allow Britain "unfettered ability to forge trade deals around the world". "We have changed tack once and we can change again", he said.

May's government was rattled by the departures of Johnson and her chief Brexit negotiator David Davis just days after she appeared to have gained the support of her cabinet for her strategy at a meeting at her Chequers country residence.

She said: "I am sorry that you have chosen to leave the Government when we have already made so much progress towards delivering a smooth and successful Brexit and when we are only eight months from the date set in law when the United Kingdom will leave the European Union".

Irish Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar said his government has stepped up plans for a no-deal scenario, where the United Kingdom leaves without a deal and both sides trade based on World Trade Organization rules.

During his speech, Johnson repeatedly praised May for her remarks at Lancaster House in early 2017, when she said that Britain would seek a clean break from the EU.

It on top of another very hard day for the prime minister, after narrowly surviving a key vote on the customs union last night, and caving to the demands of hardline Tory Brexiteers in a series of votes on Monday.

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However, at the same time, Scots Tory MP Ross Thomson, who had sat nodding behind Johnson as he delivered his speech, said it was "historic".

The Foreign Secretary cemented his position as Brexiteers' alternative leader in a Commons resignation statement that trashed Theresa May's White Paper, saying it offered "Brexit in name only". We haven't even tried. "We can't make assumptions that the withdrawal agreement will get through Westminster", Mr. Varadkar told Irish media on Wednesday.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed the government was "failing to negotiate Brexit, failing to meet the needs of the country because they are far too busy fighting each other".

He said under May's proposals, the United Kingdom was "volunteering for economic vassalage" and that Britons should be "great independent actors" on the world stage, not "rule takers".

"At absolutely no point because Brexit continues to mean Brexit", May replied.

Mr Johnson added that the United Kingdom should aim for the vision of "a strong independent, self-governing Britain" set out at Lancaster House, not the "miserable, permanent limbo" of Chequers.

But May admitted that some aspects of the customs arrangements plan she has devised might not be ready by the end of 2020. In 1990, for example, 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. The enthusiasm drained visibly from the surrounding faces as it rambled on. "Absolutely spot on. #GlobalBritain".

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