Boris Johnson comments to ‘Sun’ contradict Theresa May’s Brexit plan
British PM insists cabinet in accord on exit strategy amid calls for Johnson to be sacked
The Conservatives have opened their annual conference in Manchester amid a fresh cabinet split over Brexit and renewed speculation over Theresa May’s future as prime minister. Ms May on Sunday insisted that her cabinet was united behind the approach she set out in Florence last month, when she called for the trading relationship to remain unchanged for a transition period after Brexit.
But in an interview with the Sun, foreign secretary Boris Johnson appeared to set out new conditions for Brexit, which go beyond what the prime minister said in Florence. Mr Johnson said the transition must not last longer than two years, that Britain should not accept European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings during that time, there should be no payment for single market access, and Britain must not shadow EU regulation after it leaves.
Amid calls for Mr Johnson to be fired, the prime minister dodged a question about whether he was unsackable and claimed that all her ministers shared her approach to Brexit.
“What I have is a cabinet united in the mission of this government and that is what you will see this week and agreed on the approach we take in Florence,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. “Boris is absolutely behind the Florence speech. You’ve seen what he is saying.”
Speaking to party activists ahead of the conference, Ms May said she was sorry that June’s general election result was poor but stopped short of apologising for calling it. “I want first of all to say a huge thank-you to all of you and your teams, but I also want to say this; I called the election, I led the campaign and I am responsible and I accept my responsibility and I am sorry that the result was not what we wanted,” she said.
Earlier, Ms May signalled a retreat on university tuition fees, saying they would be frozen at their current level pending a review of the system. Labour’s promise to abolish tuition fees is credited with winning over some young voters in the election.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused Jeremy Corbyn of promising “free unicorns” and predicted his current popularity would not last, just as Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s fortunes have faded.
“I have watched as Nicola Sturgeon sold out rock venues. As she released a line of signature clothing. As she sold foam fingers to the faithful so they could point at the sky as she flew in a helicopter she’d slapped her face on, over their heads. I’ve read the commentary that said her momentum was irresistible, that everything would be swept before her. And all the other parties in Scotland should just pack up, and go home. Well, conference, I don’t like anyone telling me where to go,” she said.
Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire told the conference that the parties in the North must show the determination they have in the past to overcome their differences and restore the institutions.