Boris Johnson reopened Cabinet divisions over Brexit last night by setting out a series of red lines for negotiations with the EU.
In an intervention which will dismay Downing Street and reopen speculation about his leadership ambitions, the Foreign Secretary said he was not prepared to stay shackled to the EU for ‘a second longer’ once a two-year transition is complete in March 2021.
But Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson took a swipe at Mr Johnson last night as she called for ‘serious people’ to take charge of Brexit.
The Foreign Secretary said he was not prepared to stay shackled to the EU for ‘a second longer’ once a two-year transition is complete in March 2021
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson (left) took a swipe at Mr Johnson last night as she called for ‘serious people’ to take charge of Brexit
The Scottish Tory leader, who was a prominent figure in the Remain campaign criticised those in the party who were ‘over-optimistic’ about Brexit, saying it ‘sells people short’.
In an interview with the Times she said the complexity of the Brexit talks ‘is not something you can just skip over.’
Miss Davidson, tipped as a potential Tory leader has clashed repeatedly with Mr Johnson in the past.
Asked about his Brexit essay and upbeat message, she said: ‘This needs serious people to do a lot of legwork and scanning the detail to make sure we do get to a place where it will all be okay.’
But Mr Johnson said it was right to stress the positives about Brexit.
‘We need to believe in ourselves and believe we can do it. It is unstoppable. Ain’t no stopping us now.
‘There is a disjuncture between the debate in Westminster and the London bubble and where a lot of people are in the country.
‘Most people can’t understand what this conversation is all about. We left. We voted for that last year — so let’s get on with it.’
Remainers in the Cabinet, including Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clarke, are pushing for a transition of up to three years, fuelling suspicions the UK might never leave.
Mr Johnson said it was right to stress the positives about Brexit: ‘We need to believe in ourselves and believe we can do it. It is unstoppable. Ain’t no stopping us now’
Theresa May fudged the issue in her Florence speech this month, saying that a transition would be ‘about two years’.
But, in an interview with the Sun on the eve of the Tories’ annual conference in Manchester, Mr Johnson made it clear he would accept no further compromises on the issue.
He said Brexit voters were feeling betrayed, adding; ‘I got that from my own talking to people. Very strongly.
‘What that teaches me is that really is it. Rien ne va plus. Finito la musica. Then we come out. There can be no monkeying around.
‘Am I impatient about it, do I want to get it done as fast as possible? Yes, absolutely. Do I want the delay to go on longer than two years? Not a second more.’
Remainers in the Cabinet, including Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clarke, are pushing for a transition of up to three years, fuelling suspicions the UK might never leave
Mr Johnson angered No 10 this month when he set out his manifesto for Brexit in an authorised essay running to more than 4,000 words, just days before the PM set out her own vision.
The subsequent row, in which Home Secretary Amber Rudd branded him a ‘backseat driver’, led to speculation he might quit.
His latest intervention will revive fears in No 10 that Mr Johnson may storm out of the Government and position himself as a ‘Brexit martyr’.
Last night Mr Johnson also set down a series of other conditions for the talks with Brussels that threaten to box in Mrs May.
He said that the UK must accept no new EU rules during the transition – which puts him at odds with Mr Hammond, who believes the UK will have to accept continuing regulations from Brussels during this period.
And he said the UK must padlock itself to the single market after it finally leaves and must refuse to accept any demands for payment in return for access to the single market.
‘What I have always said is that we will pay for things that are reasonable, scientific programmes,’ he said.
‘But when it comes to paying for access to the market, that won’t happen any more than we would expect them to pay us for access to our market.’
He added: ‘There is no point in coming out of the EU and then remaining in rotational orbit around it. That is the worst of both worlds. You have to be able to have control of your regulatory framework.’