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Cabinet civil war erupts as Amber Rudd accuses Boris Johnson of 'backseat driving' on Brexit

Liz Bates

3 min read

Amber Rudd today launched a brutal broadside at her Cabinet colleague Boris Johnson – saying his latest intervention on Brexit was badly timed and amounted to “backseat driving”.

The Home Secretary burned the anti-EU campaigner by saying she had not had time to read his 4,000 word treatise laying out his grand vision for Britain outside of the bloc.

And she agreed with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who suggested the intervention by the Foreign Secretary was inappropriate in the wake of the Parsons Green tube attack.  

The rebuke was immediately backed by Theresa May's de-facto deputy Damian Green, who told BBC's Radio Five: “I agree with Amber. We’re having a weekend of excitement in the long-term scheme of things." 

Mr Johnson stunned cabinet colleagues yesterday with a Telegraph article which appeared to challenge the Downing Street line on the UK’s departure from the EU.

He argued Britain should not continue to pay anything to Brussels and should spend much of any cash it gets back on the NHS – reiterating a controversial Vote Leave campaign pledge.

It has been seen across Westminster as a leadership pitch and a direct attack on the Prime Minister just as she prepares for a crucial speech about Brexit on Friday.

Ms Rudd - who during the EU referendum said Mr Johnson was not the “the man you want driving you home” after a party - launched a scathing counter-attack on her colleague this morning.

“You could call it backseat driving, absolutely,” she told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

“I don't want him managing the Brexit process. What we have got is Theresa May managing that process.

“She is driving the car - to continue the allegory - and I’m going to make sure that as far as I’m concerned and as far as the rest of the Cabinet are concerned, we are going to help her do that.”

Asked about Mr Johnson’s contribution to the Cabinet, she said, he brought "enthusiasm, energy and sometimes entertainment".


And on whether she had read Mr Johnson’s article, Ms Rudd added: “Unfortunately not. I had rather a lot to do on Friday.

“There was a bomb that nearly went off, as we know, in Parsons Green. Yesterday I chaired Cobra, I went to see the police, I went to see the operation. No, I didn't have time to read that piece.”

Asked whether Ms Davidson was right to suggest the timing of Mr Johnson’s article was off, she said: “I think she has a point, yes.”

Her comments will also leave Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Priti Patel – who are said to have backed Mr Johnson’s intervention – smarting. 

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable also weighed in, telling the same show: "The Prime Minister on monday morning should fire this guy otherwise her own credibility is reduced to zero."

He added: "It's like a school that's completely out of control and the head teacher sitting in her office paralysed and impotent."

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