Tuesday

17th Jul 2018

Johnson challenges May on hard Brexit

The UK's foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has launched a thinly veiled leadership challenge against prime minister Theresa May, while she prepares to set out her Brexit strategy this Friday (22 September) in the Italian city of Florence.

While it seems that the majority of May's cabinet has resigned to the fact that there needs to be a transition period between the Brexit date (March 2019) and a new deal on the future UK-EU relationship, and that a hard Brexit is difficult to carry out, Johnson has insisted on keeping a hard line.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Johnson wrote a 4,300-word opinion article in The Daily Telegraph newspaper last Saturday (16 September), where he rejected the notion that Britain should pay a substantial exit bill or continue EU payments after Brexit.

Arguing that the the UK should not pay for access to the single market, he seemed to oppose any possible transition period, as has been put forward by finance minister Philip Hammond.

May is expected to try to kick start Brexit negotiations in a speech on Friday by offering to pay the UK's existing commitments to the EU, and by suggesting a transitional period.

Negotiations have been dragging on between the EU and the UK, with the next round of talks - originally scheduled for this week - being postponed until after May's speech.

The main stumbling block remains the UK's unwillingness to commit to any payments to the EU for obligations it has undertaken while still a member of the bloc.

Johnson, however, did suggest to curtail foreigners buying homes in London, borrowing more to upgrade the UK's infrastructure, and a tax reform.

Home secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC that while Johnson can express his enthusiasm for Brexit, he should remember he was not "driving the car" in Brexit negotiations.

Johnson also revived the Leave campaign's false pledge to spend £350 million (€398 million) a week extra on the NHS, the UK's health service, with the money that the UK could save from not paying into the EU budget.

That idea had been earlier rejected by May, and this time corrected by the head of the UK's statistics authority.

Sir David Norgrove said in a letter to Johnson that he was "surprised and disappointed" that the foreign secretary had revived the figure, which was misleading and represented a "clear misuse" of official statistics.

Johnson attempted to hit back, in his own a letter, accusing Norgrove of a "wilful distortion" of his article.

The foreign secretary also suggested in his article that those who support remaining in the EU might not be entirely loyal to the UK.

"So many young people with the 12 stars lipsticked on their faces" were "beginning to have genuinely split allegiances," he wrote.

UK dismisses €54bn EU bill report

David Davis denied report that the UK prime minister had agreed to an exit bill, saying the EU commission risked making itself look "silly".

EU hopes for clarity on Brexit payments

May to give first major speech on Brexit since notifying EU that the UK was leaving. Negotiations have stalled, but she could revive them with a financial offer.

EU stays calm as two top UK ministers quit

EU officials said Brexit negotiations will not be affected by the resignations of the foreign secretary and Brexit secretary. European Council president Tusk noted that "unfortunately the idea of Brexit hasn't left" with David Davis or Boris Johnson.

Opinion

Brexit - why can't we just swipe left?

The entire Brexit debate since at least 2015 has been like a bad date. But this is the age of Tinder, why can't we just swipe left?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. Putin asks Trump to go after British activist
  2. May caves in to Brexiteer demands, risking 'no deal'
  3. EU and China agree on words, not yet on action
  4. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  5. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  6. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK
  7. EU and China edge closer in Trump's 'America First' world
  8. How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us