Prime Minister Theresa May has kicked off the new political season with a pointed put-down of rival Boris Johnson, with Downing Street saying the former foreign secretary offered “no new ideas” in the Brexit debate.
As rumours grow that he is preparing to challenge May over her control of the Conservative party, Johnson used his weekly column in the Daily Telegraph today to claim the Prime Minister’s strategy for negotiations with the EU mean going “into battle with the white flag fluttering over our leading tank”.
Johnson received a sharp rebuke from Number 10, with May’s spokesperson saying: “She is a serious prime minister and she has put forward serious proposals.” They said there were “no new ideas in this article to respond to”.
MPs will return to Westminster tomorrow with both main parties in turmoil. May is facing a growing insurrection from members of her party who are calling for her to take a harder line on Brexit, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is caught in a row about alleged anti-Semitism within his party.
Tory Eurosceptics are placing May under increasing pressure to scrap her Chequers plan for negotiations. The pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), led by hard-line Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg, will meet today to discuss how to promote their alternative plan for Brexit.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis told the BBC that he would join rebels and vote against any deal based on May’s plan, which would see the UK closely aligned with the EU on regulations and the movement of goods.
Johnson said the plan – agreed by the Cabinet in July before he left his role as foreign secretary – would leave the UK with “two thirds of diddly squat”. He claimed the government has avoided solutions to issues around border control at Dover-Calais and in Ireland, saying: “They wanted essentially to stay in, and to create a Brexit in name only.”
“The scandal is not that we have failed, but that we have not even tried,” he said.