Downing Street slaps down Boris Johnson over 'crazy' jibe at PM's post-Brexit customs plan

Posted On: 
8th May 2018

Downing Street has rebuked Boris Johnson after he described the Prime Minister's preferred post-Brexit customs plan as "crazy".

Boris Johnson has angered Theresa May again.
PA Images

A spokesman for the Prime Minister pointed out that the Foreign Secretary had twice given his backing to the "customs partnership" option, with the most recent occasion being just two months ago ahead of her Mansion House speech.

Mr Johnson used an interview with the Daily Mail while visiting Washington to attack the proposal, which would see the UK collect duties on behalf of Brussels while also being free to strike its own trade deals around the world.

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He said: "If you have the new customs partnership, you have a crazy system whereby you end up collecting the tariffs on behalf of the EU at the UK frontier. If the EU decides to impose punitive tariffs on something the UK wants to bring in cheaply there’s nothing you can do.

"That’s not taking back control of your trade policy, it’s not taking back control of your laws, it’s not taking back control of your borders.

"And it’s actually not taking back control of your money either, because tariffs would get paid centrally back to Brussels."

But the Prime Minister's spokesman hit back: "There are two customs models that were first put forward by the Government last August and they were outlined in the Prime Minister's Mansion House speech, which the entire Cabinet was signed up to."

Mr Johnson was even pictured holding up a copy of the speech with his thumb up at an airfield in Hungary, after bad weather prevented him making it back in time to be there in person.

However, the spokesman insisted the Prime Minister maintains full confidence in Mr Johnson.

Tory former minister Dominic Grieve said it was "regrettable" and "undesirable" that Mr Johnson had decided to sound off in public.

"I have an old fashioned view of what Cabinet responsibility entails," he told Radio 4's World at One.

"The discussions within government on any given matter are confidential until the time is reached when the government has a collective position.

"And if you don’t like the collective position at that stage then you have to resign."

He added of Mr Johnson: "I don’t think he’s in any way prohibited by normal propriety in government."

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said: "With Boris' latest outburst, today is the day that collective responsibility died. 

"Boris signed off these position papers as part of the Cabinet, yet today he has trashed it on the front page of a national newspaper.  How can he continue to sit in Cabinet.  It is scandalous. 

"Boris is a snake-oil salesman."