Tory wars escalate as Remainers vent fury at ‘great charlatan’ Boris Johnson after he accuses May of flying ‘the white flag’ with her Chequers plan for ‘soft’ Brexit
- The former Foreign Secretary said the UK was ‘lying flat on the canvas’ in talks
- He said the negotiations were a ‘fix’ which could only lead to victory for Brussels
- His intervention is likely to increase pressure on Mrs May and her Chequers plan
The Tories’ Brexit wars escalated again today after Boris Johnson accused Theresa May of flying the ‘white flag’ in the standoff with the EU.
The former Foreign Secretary said the UK was ‘lying flat on the canvas’ in negotiations with Brussels, jibing that the ‘scandal’ of Brexit was ‘not that we’ve failed but that we have not even tried’.
The latest intervention will heap pressure on Mrs May over her blueprint – which would see the UK follow EU rules on goods and collect some taxes for the bloc in order to avoid friction at the borders.
It comes amid a rising onslaught from Tory Eurosceptics who are demanding the premier changes tack.
However, Mr Johnson was branded a ‘great charlatan’ by angry Conservative Remainers, while a senior ally of the PM suggested he was not ‘serious’.
Boris Johnson (pictured) has launched a scathing attack on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, saying the PM had ‘gone into battle with the white flag fluttering’
Mr Johnson’s latest intervention is likely to be seen as the start of a bid to oust Mrs May (pictured), who has come under fire over her Chequers proposals to align UK standards on goods to the EU
Mr Johnson was branded a ‘great charlatan’ by Conservative Remainer Sarah Wollaston
Mr Johnson, who resigned over the Chequers compromise along with former Brexit secretary David Davis, wrote in his Telegraph column that the negotiations were a ‘fix’ which could only lead to victory for Brussels.
The Tory heavyweight compared withdrawal negotiations between Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and the EU’s Michel Barnier to a rigged wrestling match.
He said: ‘Out of their corners come Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier, shrugging their shoulders and beating their chests – and I just hope you aren’t one of those trusting souls who still thinks it could really go either way.
‘The fix is in. The whole thing is about as pre-ordained as a bout between Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy; and in this case, I am afraid, the inevitable outcome is a victory for the EU, with the UK lying flat on the canvas and 12 stars circling symbolically over our semi-conscious head.’
Mr Johnson accused ‘some members’ of the Government of deliberately using the Irish border situation to ‘stop a proper Brexit’ and effectively keep Britain in the EU.
He said that the real ‘scandal’ was ‘not that we have failed, but that we have not even tried’ on Brexit.
David Davis (pictured on GMB today) reiterated his call for Chequers to be scrapped altogether, arguing that the EU must give ground as the ‘biggest loser’ from no-deal Brexit would be Ireland
The blistering intervention comes as Mrs May faces growing opposition on Tory benches to the Chequers Cabinet compromise on the Brexit strategy which triggered the resignation from the Government of Mr Johnson.
With Parliament returning from recess tomorrow, the PM is expected facing huge pressure to change course from Tory hardliners – amid claims that election strategist Sir Lynton Crosby is involved in a ‘chuck Chequers’ campaign.
Mr Barnier has stated he ‘strongly opposed’ the Chequers proposals because such ‘cherry-picking’ would mean the end of the European project if enacted
But Mr Johnson said Britain faced getting ‘two thirds of diddly squat’ for its divorce bill.
He said: ‘They may puff about ‘cherry-picking’ the single market. There may be some confected groaning and twanging of leotards when it comes to the discussion on free movement.
What is in Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint?
These are some of the key features of the Chequers plan being pushed by the UK government:
- A new free trade area in goods, based on a ‘common rulebook’ of EU regulations necessary. This will require the UK to commit by treaty to match EU rules
- ‘Mobility’ rules which will end automatic freedom of movement, but still allow UK and EU citizens to travel without visas for tourism and temporary work. It will also enable businesses to move staff between countries.
- Continued UK participation in and funding of European agencies covering areas like chemicals, aviation safety and medicines
- A ‘facilitated customs arrangement’, removing the need for customs checks at UK-EU ports. It would allow differing UK and EU tariffs on goods from elsewhere in the world to be paid at the border, removing the need for rebates in the vast majority of cases. In theory this allows Britain to sign trade deals.
- Keeping services – such as banking or legal support – outside of the common rule book, meaning the UK is completely free to set its own regulations. It accepts it will mean less trade in services between the UK and EU.
- Continued co-operation on energy and transport, a ‘common rulebook’ on state aid and commitments to maintain high standards of environmental and workplace protections.
- A security deal allowing continued UK participation in Europol and Eurojust, ‘co-ordination’ of UK and EU policies on foreign affairs, defence and development.
- Continued use of the EHIC health insurance card.
‘But the reality is that in this negotiation the EU has so far taken every important trick.
‘The UK has agreed to hand over £40 billion of taxpayers’ money for two thirds of diddly squat.
‘We will remain in the EU taxi; but this time locked in the boot, with absolutely no say on the destination. We won’t have taken back control – we will have lost control.’
The comments followed claims from former Brexit secretary David Davis that Mrs May had positioned herself for ‘open sesame’ on further Brexit climbdowns after saying she would not be pushed into compromises ‘that are not in our national interest’.
Mr Davis branded the Chequers blueprint as being ‘actually almost worse than being in’ the EU.
But he insisted today that Mrs May should not be forced to resign for putting forward ‘wrong’ proposals – and took an apparent swipe at Mr Johnson by criticising ‘personality’ politics.
Asked if Mrs May should resign, he said: ‘No, we don’t need any more turbulence right now. What matters in all of this is not the personality politics, it’s the outcome at the end.’
Senior Tory backbencher Sarah Wollaston laid into Mr Johnson more bluntly on Twitter.
‘No surprise to see the great charlatan blaming others for a mess of his own creation.
Damian Green, a close ally of Mrs May and her former deputy, complained that Mr Johnson was not being ‘serious’.
‘I don’t think using words like surrender and so on is cogniscant of the seriousness of the situation.
‘These are hugely important months for the future of the country and its prosperity.’
He insisted Mrs May’s position was ‘difficult but not impossible’ .
‘We’re walking a narrow path with people chucking rocks at us from both sides,’ he said.
Mr Green said he believed the Chequers plan would end up winning support.
‘Everyone is going to have to face the fact that the British Government has got a plan… no-one else in the EU has suggested a plan that is in any way workable,’ he said.
One Tory Remainer told The Times they were being privately assured that the Chequers plan would be softened further.
‘They are telling me, ‘We know this is difficult. We know we may have to move further.’
In another sign of Cabinet tensions yesterday, International Development Secretary Liam Fox took a swipe at the Treasury over gloomy predictions on the consequences of a no-deal scenario.
Dr Fox told the BBC: ‘Can you think back in all your time in politics where the Treasury have made predictions that were correct 15 years out, I can’t, they didn’t predict the financial crisis that happened, no-one could.
‘So this idea that we can predict what our borrowing would be 15 years in advance is just a bit hard to swallow.
‘To say what a GDP figure would be 15 years ahead is not a predictive power that I’ve known the Treasury to have in my time in politics … I don’t believe it is possible to have a 15-year time horizon on predictions on GDP.’
Tory rebels vow to trash May’s Brexit plan: Ex-ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel among 20 MPs taking stand against Chequers
Conservative rebels including Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel have joined a backbench campaign to wreck Theresa May’s Brexit plans, it has emerged.
The Stand Up 4 Brexit group has apparently recruited around 20 Tory MPs including the ex-Cabinet ministers in an effort to sink the PM’s Chequers compromise.
Mrs May’s limited control of the House of Commons means even a small rebellion from her own backbenchers could prompt a government defeat.
Stand Up 4 Brexit’s aims include the end of free movement and opposing plans to keep Britain aligned with EU standards on goods, The Times reported.
Conservative rebels including Iain Duncan Smith (left) and Priti Patel (right) have joined a backbench campaign to wreck Theresa May’s Brexit plans, it has emerged
David Davis, who resigned as Brexit secretary over the Chequers plan, also vowed to vote against Mrs May’s proposals.
The PM’s plans were ‘actually almost worse than being in’, he said.
However Mr Davis said he did not believe a change of party leader was needed, following claims that election strategist Lynton Crosby was planning to install Boris Johnson in Downing Street instead.
He said: ‘It is absolutely possible to dump Chequers without changing leader and that’s the best way to do it.
‘Anyone who conflates getting rid of Chequers with changing the leadership is confusing their aims’.
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