Boris Johnson has launched an extraordinary attack on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, accusing her of putting a “suicide vest” around Britain and handing the detonator to Brussels.
The former foreign secretary’s comments come just two days he and his wife Marina Wheeler announced their divorce after 25 years of marriage and will fuel speculation about his leadership ambitions.
He has provoked an immediate backlash from Tory critics.
He wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “At every stage in the talks so far, Brussels gets what Brussels wants.
“We have agreed to the EU’s timetable; we have agreed to hand over £39 billion, for nothing in return.
“Under the Chequers proposal we are set to agree to accept their rules – forever – with no say on the making of those rules.
“It is a humiliation. We look like a seven-stone weakling being comically bent out of shape by a 500lb gorilla.”
Mr Johnson said the reason for this was “simple” and referenced the “insanity” of the Northern Ireland “backstop”.
This is Mrs May’s promise to Brussels that, if no trade deal with the UK resolved the issue, Northern Ireland would effectively remain part of the single market.
Mr Johnson said: “We have opened ourselves to perpetual political blackmail. We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier.
“We have given him a jemmy with which Brussels can choose – at any time – to crack apart the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
The UK’s alternative backstop and the Chequers plan would both mean “agreeing to take EU rules, with no say on those rules”, leaving the country a “vassal state”.
He said: “We have managed to reduce the great British Brexit to two appalling options: either we must divide the Union, or the whole country must accept EU law forever.”
Mr Johnson, who quit the Cabinet in July in opposition to Mrs May’s Chequers plan, said there are “far better technical solutions” to the Irish border issue.
His comments drew a furious response from Tory MP and ex-army officer Tom Tugendhat, who has been viewed as a possible rival in a leadership contest.
“A suicide bomber murdered many in the courtyard of my office in Helmand,” he said. “Comparing the PM to that isn’t funny.”
Conservative MP Sir Alan Duncan wrote: “For Boris to say that the PM’s view is like that of a suicide bomber is too much. This marks one of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics.”
Elsewhere, the Sunday Times reported that Mrs May’s aides had drawn up a 4,000-word dossier on Mr Johnson containing a “catalogue of lurid allegations” at the time the 2016 leadership contest.
It was not used after his campaign failed to get off the launch pad, but the newspaper reported the “war book” was circulating in Westminster last week.
Officials at Downing Street and Conservative Campaign Headquarters denied circulating the document.
With Monday marking just 200 days until the UK’s exit from the EU, Mr Johnson’s successor as foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt pleaded for Tories to get behind Mrs May and the Chequers plan.
Ahead of a potentially difficult Conservative Party conference, Mr Hunt said the Prime Minister’s efforts to achieve the best outcome for Britain “will be greatly strengthened if we are united behind her”.
In a Mail On Sunday article, he said: “We should not rush to judgment on a deal that is still under negotiation.
“Nor should we assume that unacceptable further concessions will ‘inevitably’ be made on the Chequers proposals. I know this Prime Minister and she would never recommend a deal inconsistent with what the country voted for.”
In a pointed remark apparently aimed at Brexiteers, he added: “Nobody else has a detailed plan that both delivers on the instruction of the British people and has a chance of succeeding in the negotiations.”
EDIT: Watch out Boris, you will soon be kicked out of the party and land in the gutter.
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