Ex-foreign secretary outlines his Brexit vision ahead of the Tory party conference
Boris Johnson has urged the prime minister to abandon her Chequers plan and “change the course of the negotiation” on Brexit, in a 4,000-word intervention aiming to recapture the narrative before the Conservative party conference.
The piece sought to put to bed criticisms that Brexiters such as Johnson who oppose Theresa May’s plans for a common UK-EU rulebook on goods have no alternative of their own. “The single greatest failing has been the government’s appalling and inexplicable delay in setting out a vision for what Brexit is,” he said.
The former foreign secretary, who conceded that his alternative approach might need an extension of a transition period beyond 2020, accused May of a “pretty invertebrate performance”.
“There has been a collective failure of government, and a collapse of will by the British establishment, to deliver on the mandate of the people,” he wrote in an article for the Telegraph.
Johnson said it was “widely accepted that the UK is now in a weak position in the Brexit negotiations”, a tacit criticism of the prime minister’s negotiating approach, which he said had been defined by a “basic nervousness” and a “lack of conviction”. He said May’s premiership had been “in the grip of a fatal uncertainty about whether or not to leave the customs union”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg echoed Johnson’s criticisms, likening the Chequers plan to Count Dracula in that it “doesn’t have much life in the sunlight”. The chairman of the Eurosceptic European Research Group told BBC One’s Question Time: “I think the negotiations have been badly conducted, I think we have let the European Union make the running in negotiations, we agreed to their establishment of the terms of negotiations and the timetable of the negotiations.
Johnson’s article did not challenge May’s leadership directly, but was likely to fuel speculation that Johnson may move against the prime minister before the negotiations have been concluded.