Tories at war over Boris Johnson’s 'disgraceful' Brexit pitch
Furious Tory MPs have called for Boris Johnson to be sacked after the Foreign Secretary set out his Brexit vision just days before Theresa May’s crucial Florence speech.
But the prominent Brexit campaigner also won the backing of old allies Michael Gove and Priti Patel with his call for a ‘hard’ Brexit and his restatement of the controversial pledge made during the referendum campaign to give £350m in EU payments to the NHS.
The intervention was reportedly met with hostility from many Tories as it was seen in Westminster as a leadership bid that could potentially destabilise the Prime Minister ahead of a crucial keynote address on Friday, which will take place in Florence.
One former minister told the Observer: “It is completely disgraceful. You do not write an article like that without consulting the Prime Minister and your Cabinet colleagues. It is a complete abdication of cabinet responsibility. This is all about Mr Johnson, Mr Johnson, Mr Johnson, not about the interests of government or the country.”
Another Tory MP said: “He is deliberately tempting May to sack him but the awful thing is that she is too pathetically weak to do so. So we have a Cabinet openly at war on the most important issue of the day and that is what we have to live with.”
In an article for the Telegraph yesterday, the Foreign Secretary restated the claim that Brexit could free up £350m for the NHS and added that the UK should not pay for access to the single market.
He said the opportunities outside the EU would lead to a "bold, thriving" Britain.
Continued membership of the single market and customs union, he added, would make a "complete mockery" of last year's referendum result.
After the backlash from Tory colleagues he later tweeted his support for the Prime Minister, writing: "All behind Theresa for a glorious Brexit."
The move won support from his Cabinet colleagues and fellow Brexit campaigners Mr Gove and Ms Patel, who are reportedly backing Mr Johnson’s views and are keen to see the referendum promises delivered.
A Whitehall source told the Sunday Telegraph: “Boris and Michael have said to Downing Street that the £350m promise was made to Leave voters and we’ve got to follow through with that when we leave the EU.
“Both of them are also of one mind when it comes to the Brexit bill.”