Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has made his highly-anticipated personal statement to the House of Commons, criticising the Prime Minister’s vision for Brexit, calling it a “Brexit in name only”.
Addressing the house and explaining his reasons for resigning from Theresa May’s increasingly anti-Brexit government, Johnson said “it is not too late to save Brexit”, and that the present plan — dubbed by the media as the Chequers plan — would subject Britain to “miserable, permanent limbo”.
Johnson’s comments in that regard appear to echo those made by prominent Brexit figure Jacob Rees-Mogg, who watched on from the same bench as Johnson spoke, who had before described May’s Brexit plan as “perpetual purgatory”.
The former Foreign Secretary made frequent reference to the Prime Minister’s Florence speech as a better version of Brexit, since betrayed by constant retreats in the face of pressure from the European Union. Yet to keen supporters of Brexit, even the Florence plan which the Prime Minister has since abandoned in favour of a significantly softer approach, was thought of as a betrayal of the spirit of Brexit, delaying the day of departure for years by introducing a so-called ‘transition period’.
Referring to further betrayals and weak negotiating, Johnson cited a “fog of self-doubt”, “stealthy retreat”, and dithering within Westminster.
Johnson had the right to speak in the House by longstanding British parliamentary convention — albeit one not observed in recent times — that Members of Parliament who had resigned from the government should be able to make personal statements. The similarity of circumstance to the resignation speech by Geoffrey Howe who was also Foreign Secretary and resigned over European issues elicited much comment in Westminster on Wednesday — Mr Johnson even sat in the same seat in the chamber to deliver his speech, it was claimed.
The 1990 Howe speech is widely credited with being one of the key events that brought down Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Theresa May has enjoyed several weeks of political instability over her Brexit dealings — hit first by the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis and then Foreign Secretary — a senior government post — Boris Johnson, and seven other junior members of the government.
Amid rumours of a revolt against her leadership, the Prime Minister has responded to quell dissent, first ransacking the Brexit ministry of 50 of its best staff for her own private Cabinet Office, and then moving to break up Parliament early for the summer, it is claimed, to send the members home and prevent them plotting in Westminster.