Britain's Boris Johnson Accused Of Brexit 'Backseat Driving'

Kristopher Drake
September 19, 2017

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 file photo, Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives at 10 Downing Street in London. Is it Brexit Secretary David Davis; is it Mr Johnson who was described as "a back seat driver" by Home Secretary Amber Rudd - or is it Mrs May who wouldn't be travelling to Florence on Friday to make her views known if negotiations with the European Union were proceeding authoritatively?

Mr Johnson said he was trying to "sketch out" the "incredibly exciting landscape of the destination ahead".

"If you had any concerns about my article, it would of course have been open to you to address the points with me in private rather than in this way in a public letter. It is good to have a bit of a opening drum roll about what this country can do".

The PM's comments were made as she flew to Canada to discuss post-Brexit trade with her counterpart Justin Trudeau.

With May due to set out her vision for Brexit in a speech in the Italian city of Florence on Friday, Johnson published a 4,300-word newspaper article that roamed well beyond his ministerial brief and, in some cases, went beyond the approach set out by the government.

Arguing that the the United Kingdom 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.

Asked if the spat was a distraction, she told reporters at a briefing: "The Foreign Secretary's views are well known, he's expressed them before during the referendum campaign and that's as much as I can add to that".

The Prime Minister will then deliver her big speech on Brexit in Florence on Friday - which will be keenly scrutinised both in Westminster and Brussels. She tried to end the chatter, and achieved the opposite.


"Citizens.living in the rest of the EEA (European Economic Area) in receipt of personal pensions may face difficulties in getting paid", she said in a letter to finance minister Philip Hammond.

"To give you an example: when I was Mayor of London I thought it would be a good idea if we persuaded the Commission to spend £8m on the Emirates cable auto".

Maybe. But for any prime minister at any time, having to assert that he or she is genuinely the one working the pedals and gripping the wheel is scarcely a sign of strength.

"It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS (National Health Service)".

Of course, seeing Britain's exit from the European Union as some kind of windfall only works if it doesn't hurt the public finances more generally, cancelling out any money we would save from membership fees. "And at the time we will look to see where we think it is appropriate and best to spend that money".

In what BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said was a sign of Theresa May taking more control of Brexit negotiations, Oliver Robbins will now work more directly for the PM.

Business leaders have voiced concern about the slow pace of Brexit negotiations, warning it could affect a constructive exit from the EU.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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