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Alan Duncan quits: Foreign Office minister says he can’t serve under Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is today gearing up for a brutal battle over Brexit as a foreign office minister quit saying he will not serve under the new PM.

Sir Alan Duncan – a long-time foe of Mr Johnson – announced his resignation as the department’s number two just a day before the new Tory leader is due to be installed.

In his letter, Sir Alan sniped that he was frustrated at working under the ‘dark cloud of Brexit’ – and also took aim at Mr Johnson’s handling of the case of British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been jailed in Iran. 

But supporters of Mr Johnson hit back by joking that they were ‘crying a river’ and playing a ‘tiny violin’. 

The departure immediately sparked claims that a slew of ministers will follow him out of the door as Theresa May’s premiership enters its final 48 hours. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond and Justice Secretary David Gauke have already made clear they will quit on Wednesday before Mrs May formally stands down. Health minister Stephen Hammond and defence minister Tobias Ellwood are also believed to be among those considering their positions.

Mr Johnson is almost certain to defeat Jeremy Hunt for the Conservative leadership tomorrow, and will take over from Mrs May in Downing Street on Wednesday after her final PMQs. The final ConHome poll of party activists suggests he could be on track to trounce his rival by 73 per cent to 27 per cent. 

Some allies are urging him to sack Mr Hunt if he wins by a big margin, saying the Foreign Secretary should ‘take responsibility’ for blunders in the Iran tanker crisis. 

However, other allies played down speculation Mr Hunt could be axed, telling MailOnline they will ‘kiss and make up’ after bitter clashes during the contest. 

Boris Johnson will have a wafer-thin Commons majority of just four when he becomes PM, which could fall to two if the Tories lose a by-election next month. His Brexit plan faced a double blow last night before he even enters No 10

Sir Alan Duncan (pictured in Westminster today) - a long-time foe of Mr Johnson - announced he had resigned just a day before the new Tory leader is due to be installed

Sir Alan Duncan (pictured in Westminster today) – a long-time foe of Mr Johnson – announced he had resigned just a day before the new Tory leader is due to be installed

In his resignation letter today, Sir Alan said he regretted his attempts to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe were 'abruptly ended'

In his resignation letter today, Sir Alan said he regretted his attempts to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe were ‘abruptly ended’

Tory MP Ben Bradley, a supporter of Mr Johnson, hit back by joking that he was 'crying a river' and playing a 'tiny violin'

Tory MP Ben Bradley, a supporter of Mr Johnson, hit back by joking that he was ‘crying a river’ and playing a ‘tiny violin’

The last ConHome poll of activists suggests that Mr Johnson has trounced Mr Hunt in the leadership contest

The last ConHome poll of activists suggests that Mr Johnson has trounced Mr Hunt in the leadership contest

Polls show Mr Johnson is likely to win a comprehensive victory when the result of the Tory leadership race is announced tomorrow. 

The former London mayor demanded a more positive attitude this morning, comparing Brexit to the moon landings. 

Sir Alan Duncan’s beef with Boris Johnson goes back years  

Sir Alan Duncan’s beef with Boris Johnson goes back years.

The Tory MP previously described Mr Johnson as a ‘circus act’ when it emerged that his former boss at the Foreign Office had described the French as ‘turds’ over their approach too Brexit.

During the 2016 Conservative leadership contest Sir Alan jibed about Mr Johnson’s tangled love life by branding him ‘Silvio Borisconi’.  

Earlier this month, Sir Alan accused the Tory favourite of throwing Sir Kim Darroch, the UK’s former ambassador to Washington, ‘under the bus’ by failing to stand up for him when Donald Trump raged about leaked diplomatic cables.

‘His disregard for Sir Kim Darroch and his refusal to back him was pretty contemptible and not in the interests of the country he is hoping to lead,’ Sir Alan said at the time.  

He said if technology 50 years ago could achieve space travel then it could solve the Irish border issue. 

However, the comparison was lampooned by Labour former PM Tony Blair, who pointed out that they were ‘technically different’ and warned that the EU will not give ground on the backstop.  

Among half a dozen senior ministers are expected to resign on Wednesday, when Theresa May leaves office, rather than being sacked.

But Sir Alan, who was Mr Johnson’s deputy at the Foreign Office and recently lambasted him for failing to defend US ambassador Sir Kim Darroch, decided to take matters into his own hands today.

He wrote: ‘The UK does so much good in the world. It is tragic that just when we could have been the dominant intellectual and political force throughout Europe, and beyond, we have had to spend every day working beneath the dark cloud of Brexit.

‘On a heartfelt personal note, I have known you and Philip for over 40 years, throughout which you have both displayed faultless dignity and an unstinting sense of duty. 

‘I am only sorry that your three years as prime minister have been brought to an end. You deserved better.’

There are claims more could follow Sir Alan’s example by tonight. 

Who else is ready to quit as the Boris Johnson era kicks off?  

Chancellor Philip Hammond 

Justice Secretary David Gauke 

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart 

Health minister Stephen Hammond

Energy minister Claire Perry 

In addition, six more MPs are rumoured to be planning to defect to the Liberal Democrats if he becomes the party’s new leader.

Sir Alan previously described Mr Johnson as a ‘circus act’ when it emerged that Mr Johnson had described the French as ‘turds’ over their approach too Brexit.

During the 2016 Conservative leadership contest Sir Alan jibed about Mr Johnson’s tangled love life by branding him ‘Silvio Borisconi’.  

Earlier this month, Sir Alan accused the Tory favourite of throwing Sir Kim Darroch, the UK’s former ambassador to Washington, ‘under the bus’ by failing to stand up for him when Donald Trump raged about leaked diplomatic cables.

‘His disregard for Sir Kim Darroch and his refusal to back him was pretty contemptible and not in the interests of the country he is hoping to lead,’ Sir Alan said at the time. 

Mr Johnson is not just facing trouble from within his own party, as the EU ramps up its rhetoric ahead of what promises to be bitter negotiations in the run-up to October 31. 

But in a sign of difficulties he faces once in Downing Street, senior ministers opposing No Deal including Philip Hammond and David Gauke (above) announced they would quit the Government if he becomes Prime Minister

But in a sign of difficulties he faces once in Downing Street, senior ministers opposing No Deal including Philip Hammond and David Gauke (above) announced they would quit the Government if he becomes Prime Minister

Chancellor Phillip Hammond is also among half a dozen ministers expected to resign on Wednesday, when Theresa May leaves office, rather than being sacked

Margot James, who resigned as a culture minister last week to support efforts to stop Parliament being suspended, has denied she is currently thinking about defecting to the Liberal Democrats

Margot James, who resigned as a culture minister last week to support efforts to stop Parliament being suspended, has denied she is currently thinking about defecting to the Liberal Democrats

Yesterday the Irish government took a hardline stance against his demand for a better Brexit deal.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney insisted the EU would not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement and rejected outright the idea of a time limit on the Northern Ireland backstop. 

Last night Mr Johnson was finalising the list of senior Downing Street staff to join him in No 10 and work in his Cabinet.

Expectations of his victory were raised by a ConservativeHome poll showing up to 73 per cent of Tory members back him for leader, in what would be a landslide over Jeremy Hunt.

The result will be announced shortly after 11am tomorrow. Mrs May will conduct her final Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday before she goes to Buckingham Palace to resign. Mr Johnson is then expected to make his first speech as PM outside No 10 at around 5pm and begin making Cabinet appointments later in the evening.

Will Tory MPs join Lib Dems?

Six Tory MPs may defect to the Liberal Democrats if Boris Johnson is anointed Conservative leader tomorrow, it was claimed yesterday.

The rebel group are due to hold talks with the pro-Remain party this week and could discuss voting against Mr Johnson in a vote of no confidence, The Sunday Times reported.

It is said they could even consider joining the Lib Dems – depriving Mr Johnson of a majority even with the backing of the DUP. 

Sir Ed Davey, who served as Lib Dem energy minister in the coalition cabinet with leading Tory remainers, is understood to have been approached by Conservatives desperate to stop Mr Johnson. 

It would only take two desertions to wipe out the Tory majority and the Conservatives are also widely expected to lose a seat in an upcoming by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire.

Margot James, who resigned as a culture minister last week to support efforts to stop Parliament being suspended, has denied having discussions about defecting. 

Yesterday she said she was not considering leaving ‘at the moment’, adding: ‘I want to stay working with this group in the Conservative Party as I do think there’s a chance of getting somewhere.’

He has promised to leave the EU ‘do or die’ on October 31, and last week toughened his Brexit stance by insisting he would not accept minor changes to the Irish backstop.

But up to half a dozen ministers in the so-called ‘Gaukeward Squad’ – named after Justice Secretary Mr Gauke – strongly opposed to No Deal are expected to walk out on the day and begin organising against him from the backbenches. 

Mr Johnson will have a wafer-thin Commons majority of just four when he becomes PM, which could fall to two if the Tories lose a by-election next month.

Yesterday morning Mr Hammond announced he would quit before he is pushed and repeated his determination to stop a ‘catastrophic’ No Deal Brexit. Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show if he thought he would be sacked, he replied: ‘No, I’m sure I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point.

‘Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his Government would include accepting a No Deal exit on October 31, and it’s not something I could ever sign up to.

‘It’s very important that the Prime Minister is able to have a Chancellor who is closely aligned with him in terms of policy, and I therefore intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the Palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday.’

Mr Gauke told The Sunday Times he would also quit, adding: ‘If the test of loyalty to stay in the Cabinet is a commitment to support No Deal on October 31 – which, to be fair to him, Boris has consistently said – then that’s not something I’m prepared to sign up to.

‘I recognise that this spell in government is coming to an end. Given that I’ve been in the Cabinet since Theresa May came to power, I think the appropriate thing is for me to resign to her.’

Mr Hammond said Parliament ‘does have a way of preventing a No Deal exit on October 31 without parliamentary consent’, adding: ‘I intend to work with others to ensure Parliament uses its power to make sure that the new Government can’t do that.’

Several other ministers could also quit on the day, sources suggested, including International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, health minister Stephen Hammond and energy minister Claire Perry.

However, Business Secretary Greg Clark has told friends he will not quit and could remain in the Government.

Irish deputy Mr Coveney rebuffed suggestions the EU would compromise with Mr Johnson on the existing Brexit deal ‘just because there’s a change in personality as British Prime Minister’, saying: ‘We’re simply not going to move away from that Withdrawal Agreement.

‘The facts don’t change around Brexit. The complexity doesn’t change. The vulnerabilities on the island of Ireland don’t change.

‘The EU I think has made it very clear that we want to engage with the new British Prime Minister, we want to avoid a No Deal Brexit.’

He described Mr Johnson’s approach was ‘give me what I want or I’m going to burn the house down for everybody’. 

Sir Alan Duncan’s resignation letter from the Foreign Office 

Dear Prime Minister

It is customary for all Ministers to stand down on the departure of a Prime Minister, and I am writing to resign now in anticipation of the change on Wednesday. I am doing so a couple of days early in order to be free to express my views in advance of you relinquishing office.

Despite playing an active role in your leadership campaign I had not sought further ministerial office, but remain deeply grateful to you for recalling me to the colours three years ago.

I have served with two very different Foreign Secretaries, holding responsibility for 77 countries across all of the Americas, Europe, Russia, Turkey and Central Asia.

I was pleased to build a strong relationship with Turkey in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt. I have re-set our relationship with Argentina and established additional flights to the Falklands; have put the UK in the forefront of international co-operation on Venezuela; have negotiated the eviction of Julian Assange from the Ecuador embassy, and then re-launched our relations with Ecuador itself.

I have played my part in handling our vexed relationship with Russia, and in helping ensure last year’s Western Balkans summit in London was such a success. Perhaps most fulfilling has been the steady nurturing of UK engagement in Central Asia, where a personal focus on Uzbekistan’s reform path helped lead to the release of a raft of political prisoners and the admission to the country of the BBC, the Economist and Reuters.

Rather less successfully, it was disappointing that our efforts to secure an agreement on the future of Cyprus failed, and I remain deeply upset that some fruitful discussions I had initiated about the possible release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe were brought to such an abrupt halt.

The Foreign Office deserves far more recognition (and resources!) for the excellent work it does for our country, and I salute all who work in it with such integrity.

The UK does so much good in the world. It is tragic that just when we could have been the dominant intellectual and political force throughout Europe, and beyond, we have had to spend every day working beneath the dark cloud of Brexit.

On a heartfelt person note, I have known you and Philip for over forty years, throughout which you have both displayed faultless dignity and an unstinting sense of duty. I am only sorry that your three years as Prime Minister have been brought to an end. You deserved better, but please take lasting comfort from the knowledge that your self-esteem (sic) can, and will forever, far exceed that of your critics.

Yours Ever

Alan

How will the new PM’s first 100 days in power shake out? 

The new PM faces a trial by fire in his first 100 days in office – which culminates in the Brexit deadline on October 31. 

Here are some of the key events: 

July 23: The new Tory leader is announced at an event in central London, with Boris Johnson the overwhelming favourite to win. 

July 24: Theresa May will take her final session of Prime Minister’s Questions before making a brief statement in Downing Street, and heading to Buckingham Palace to offer her resignation to the Queen. 

Her successor will then go to see the monarch to be asked to form a new government. 

Assuming he wins, Mr Johnson is expected to deliver a speech outside No10 at around 5pm, before making the first few appointments to his top team. His girlfriend Carrie Symonds is not thought to be planning to be on show as he faces the media.

July 25-26: The Commons breaks up for its summer recess on Thursday. Mr Johnson will finish appointing his ministers, and could give a keynote speech fleshing out his plans.   

August 1: Brecon and Radnorshire by-election. 

Tory candidate Chris Davies is seeking to regain the seat he was ousted from by a recall petition triggered in the wake of his conviction for submitting false expenses claims. If he fails, the new prime minister’s working majority in the Commons will be cut to just three. 

August 24: G7 Summit in Biarritz. The new prime minister’s first appearance at a major global summit. 

Donald Trump will be among the world leaders at the gathering, potentially providing the opportunity for a meeting with the controversial US president in an effort to highlight the importance of the special relationship and a future trade deal. 

September: The UN General Assembly meeting in New York will provide another opportunity for the new prime minister to appear on the global stage and set out their vision for the country’s place in the world. –

September 29 to October 2: Conservative Party Conference. 

The gathering in Manchester will be a key test of the new Tory leader’s ability to unite the party and provides a platform to use their closing speech to address the nation. 

October 17-18: EU summit. This is the last schedule meeting of EU leaders before the UK is due to leave the bloc – although an emergency gathering could be called before or afterwards.

October 31: The deadline for reaching a Brexit deal. 

Unless there is a further extension, this will be the UK’s last day as a member of the European Union and it will leave, with or without an agreement. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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