Brexit letter leak 'was a Number 10 attempt to kneecap' Boris Johnson

Posted On: 
4th March 2018

A close ally of Boris Johnson has reportedly accused Theresa May’s top aide of leaking the Foreign Secretary’s controversial letter on the Irish border.

Former Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell is now Theresa May's chief of staff
PA Images

Mr Johnson sparked anger among colleagues this week when his comments emerged appearing to contradict Government policy by saying there may need to be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The letter to the Prime Minister said that “even if a hard border is reintroduced”, it would not significantly affect trade - despite his claims in November that such a move would be “unthinkable”.

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The latest row comes days after Mrs May forged a truce between the Cabinet at Chequers in order to present a united front ahead of her key Brexit speech last Friday.  

The Sunday Times reports that Downing Street chief of staff Gavin Barwell was forced to deny a role in leaking the document to Sky News.

“This looks like an attempt to launch a pre-emptive kneecapping of Boris,” the friend of the Foreign Secretary said. “I suspect the leak inquiry won’t have to look any further than the PM’s outer office.”

A senior official in another department also blamed Downing Street and said: “There are only a very select few people who had access to the letter.”

The Mail on Sunday also quotes a source close to Mr Johnson, who said the move was a “revenge attack” and motivated by a personal dislike of the Foreign Secretary over his pro-Brexit stance.

“It was a flush out,” the MP said. “We suspect Gavin. He subscribes to the view that Brexit is a total f*****g disaster. He blames Brexit and Boris for losing his seat at the last election”.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman attempted to play down the row, adding: “This is a yawn-o-rama - a nonsense claim about a half-baked and misleading leak that has been totally superseded by the Prime Minister’s excellent speech on Friday,” he said.

And Number 10 denied Mr Barwell was behind the leak, saying: “As Boris himself has made clear, these claims are… totally untrue.”

The Sunday Times adds that Number 10 banned Mr Johnson from releasing the full text of the letter, amid an angry stand-off between Mrs May’s team and the Foreign Office.