Jo Johnson quits as transport minister over Brexit, calling for second referendum

Joe Curtis
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Jo Johnson follows his brother, Boris, out of government over the Brexit deal Downing Street is chasing (Source: Getty)

Jo Johnson resigned from government this afternoon in protest at the Prime Minister’s Brexit strategy, backing calls for a second referendum.

Calling Theresa May’s Brexit deal “a terrible mistake”, the minister of state for transport quit his post, claiming the UK economy would suffer from May’s Brexit agreement.

“The choice being presented to the British people is no choice at all,” he said.

“The first option is the one the government is proposing: an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business.

“The second option is a no-deal Brexit that I know as a transport minister will inflict untold damage on our nation.”

Johnson confirmed he now plans to vote against any withdrawal agreement May brings before parliament.

He also supported a so-called people’s vote, in which the government would ask the public whether it still wants to leave the EU.

“I reject this false choice between the PM’s deal and no-deal chaos. On this most crucial of questions, I believe it is entirely right to go back to the people and ask them to confirm their decision to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, to give them the final say on whether we leave with the Prime Minister’s deal or without it,” Johnson said.

“To do anything less will do grave damage to our democracy.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The referendum in 2016 was the biggest democratic exercise in this country’s history. We will not under any circumstances have a second referendum. The Prime Minister thanks Jo Johnson for his work in government.”

Johnson also aired concerns about a no deal scenario, saying there are “real questions” about how the UK can guarantee access to fresh food and medicine amid lorry queues at Dover.

With Highways England turning the M26 into a holding site for lorries travelling to Europe, and the M20 earmarked as another potential site for goods vehicles, Johnson added: “The prospect of Kent becoming the Lorry Park of England is very real in a no deal scenario.”

Johnson lashed out at his brother, Boris, and other Leave supporters, claiming that the economic and political consequences of Brexit could “leave an indelible impression of incompetence in the minds of the public”.

Boris Johnson, who quit as foreign secretary in July, has repeatedly called for ministers and Theresa May to “chuck Chequers” and propose a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU.

Jo Johnson said May’s withdrawal agreement is “a con on the British people”, saying key issues about the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU will be kicked into “a boundless transitionary period”.