Ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has absolutely excoriated Theresa May and her Brexit strategy in his resignation letter, warning that Brexit is “dying” and Britain is “headed for the status of colony”.
The former Mayor of London’s resignation followed that of David Davis, who had been Secretary of State at the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union and was at least nominally in charge of the negotiations with the EU.
Davis felt he could not defend the ultra-soft Brexit vision imposed by May at a Cabinet away day in the prime ministerial estate of Chequers, as it left Brussels and its courts with far too much power over Britain’s laws, regulations, and trade policy.
While the Brexit Secretary was firm but measured in his public statements, Johnson’s letter is an astonishing and direct attack on the Prime Minister, of a type which has not been seen from a senior minister in at least a generation.
“It is more than two years since the British people voted to leave the European Union on an unambiguous and categorical promise that if they did so they would be taking back control of their democracy,” he began.
“They were told that they would be able to manage their own immigration policy, repatriate the sums of UK cash currently spent by the EU, and, above all, that they would be able to pass laws independently and in the interests of the people of this country.
“Brexit should be about opportunity and hope. It should be a chance to do things differently, to be more nimble and dynamic, and to maximise the particular advantages of the UK as an open, outward-looking global economy.
“That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt,” he blasted.
“We have postponed crucial decisions – including the preparations for no deal, as I argued in my letter to you of last November – with the result that we appear to be heading for a semi-Brexit, with large parts of the economy still locked in the EU system, but with no UK control over that system,” he continued.
“It is also clear that by surrendering control over our rulebook for goods and agrifoods (and much else besides) we will make it much more difficult to do free trade deals. And then there is the further impediment of having to argue for an impractical and undeliverable customs arrangement unlike any other in existence,” he warned.
“Conversely, the British Government has spent decades arguing against this or that EU directive, on the grounds that it was too burdensome or ill-thought out. We are now in the ludicrous position of asserting that we must accept huge amounts of precisely such EU law, without changing an iota, because it is essential for our economic health – and when we no longer have any ability to influence these laws as they are made.
“In that respect we are truly headed for the status of colony – and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement.”
“What is even more disturbing is that this is our opening bid. This is already how we see the end state for the UK – before the other side has made its counter-offer. It is as though we are sending our vanguard into battle with the white flags fluttering above them.
“Indeed, I was concerned, looking at Friday’s document, that there might be further concessions on immigration, or that we might end up effectively paying for access to the single market,” he concluded.
The Prime Minister may shortly find herself facing a vote of no confidence in her leadership, although Remainer MPs have indicated that they believe they can forestall this — at least for now.