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Press releases

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove secret Brexit letter ‘reveals soft coup attempt’

3 min read

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have been accused of launching a ‘soft coup’ against Theresa May after they wrote her a letter detailing a series of Brexit demands.

The missive – which says post-Brexit transition arrangements must end on 30 June 2021 – prompted one government insider to brand Mrs May a “Downing Street hostage,” calling the move a "soft coup".

The Mail on Sunday also says the pair urged the Prime Minister to make sure members of her top team were obeying the party line on Brexit by “clarifying their minds”.

The release of the sensational letter, which stated "for your and Gavin’s eyes only" at the top of the page – referring to former MP and now Number 10 Chief-of-Staff Gavin Barwell – will heap further pressure on the struggling Prime Minister.

The former Leave campaigners call on Mrs May to ‘underline her resolve’ to achieve a total break with the EU, before urging to her to "articulate the following" – and then set out their own hard Brexit manifesto.

The letter also implies that Philip Hammond, who faced a summer of reported clashes with hard Brexiteer ministers over the details of Brexit, is not showing "sufficient energy" and is letting the EU hold Britain "over a barrel" by refusing to plan for the possibility of a 'no deal' exit.

The Foreign Secretary and Environment Secretary also said the Prime Minister should display more "confidence".

The letter, which insiders told the paper was sent last month, also calls on the Prime Minister to “meet us when when you consider it wise”

“Your approach is governed by sensible pragmatism. That does not in any way dilute our ambition to be a fully independent self-governing country by the time of the next election,” it reads.

“If we are to counter those who wish to frustrate that end, there are ways of underlining your resolve.

“We are profoundly worried that in some parts of Government the current preparations are not proceeding with anything like sufficient energy.

“We have heard it argued by some that we cannot start preparations on the basis of ‘No Deal’ because that would undermine our obligation of ‘sincere co-operation’ with the EU. If taken seriously, that would leave us over a barrel in 2021.

“We all want you to push your agenda forward with confidence and have your Government articulate the following...

A Government spokesman declined to comment on the "leak", but told the paper: "It is common practice under governments of all colours for Cabinet Ministers to offer advice and views to the PM."


The revelations have sparked a fresh headache from the Prime Minister who is under increased pressure to ensure MPs are given a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal, or face another high-profile Commons defeat.

A cross-party group opposed to a hard Brexit have warned that they have the numbers to defeat the government if they are denied such a vote on the final deal, according to the Guardian

The withdrawal bill is set to return to the Commons on Tuesday, and a number of rebel Tories are poised to back critical amendments and closest votes next month, when they are expected to be held.

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