Boris Johnson launches fresh attack on 'deranged' Theresa May as Tory conference kicks off
Boris Johnson has launched his most direct attack on Theresa May yet, describing her Brexit strategy as "deranged" and savaging her domestic agenda.
In a fresh blast timed to coinicide with the start of the Conservative conference in Birmingham, the former Foreign Secretary flaunted his pro-Brexit credentials, questioned Mrs May's commitment to leaving the EU and vowed to scrap the HS2 rail project.
The arch-critic of Theresa May's Chequers Brexit plan told the Sunday Times: "Unlike the Prime Minister I campaigned for Brexit.
"Unlike the Prime Minister I fought for this, I believe in it, I think it’s the right thing for our country and I think that what is happening now is, alas, not what people were promised in 2016."
Mr Johnson quit the Cabinet over the summer in protest at the Prime Minister's Chequers proposals, which include plans for EU and UK border staff to collect customs duties on behalf of each other.
But the ex-Foreign Secretary said that pitch to the EU was "entirely preposterous".
"The idea that we could ask customs officers in Dubrovnik and Santander to charge British-only tariffs is deranged, and nobody thinks it can work," he fumed.
"There will be economic and political damage to the UK if we go with Chequers. It surrenders control."
Mr Johnson also used his interview to launch potshots at the Conservatives' response to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
He said: "I think we need to make the case for markets. I don’t think we should caper insincerely on socialist territory. You can’t beat Corbyn by becoming Corbyn."
Mr Johnson added: "We should be proud of being Conservatives, proud of what we stand for, believe in ourselves and believe in our ability to create the wealth to pay for fantastic mental healthcare services, a fantastic social care, a fantastic NHS."
DITCH HS2 CALL
In what will be seen as a bid to win over Conservative MPs in the north of England whose constituents faced rail chaos over the summer, Mr Johnson also repeated his demand that the HS2 rail project be ditched.
“There are projects we should have on transport in the north of the country that ought to take precedence over HS2," he said.
"It’s crazy how long it takes to get east-west across the country."
The former Cabinet minister - who used a 4,600 word Telegraph column on Friday to set out his own vision of Brexit - is likely to steal the spotlight when he addresses a Conservative conference fringe event on Tuesday night.
He refused to say that Mrs May should lead the Tories into the next general election, telling the paper she should stay "for as long as her party wants her".
But his latest intervention came as a defiant Theresa May accused her critics of "playing politics" and set out a batch of new domestic policies.
The Prime Minister vowed to up taxes on foreign property ownership and pump cash into a new festival to celebrate Britain, saying: "There’s a long-term job to do.
"Because it’s not just about Brexit, it’s about the domestic agenda as well. I think we’re at a very important and historic moment for the UK. There are real opportunities for the UK outside the European Union."