British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has set out his plans for a “glorious” Brexit.
The decision has angered colleagues and reignited speculation he will challenge Prime Minister Theresa May for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
What has Boris done?
He has published a 4,300 word newspaper article that roams well beyond his ministerial brief and, at certain points, beyond the government’s approach.
Britain, he says, will not pay to access European markets in the future.
“We would not expect to pay for access to their markets any more than they would expect to pay for access to ours,” Johnson wrote. There is no reference to the transition period the government is expected to negotiate.
Once out of the European Union, the country should borrow to invest in infrastructure, reform the tax code and set immigration levels as it sees fit.
“My friends, I must report that there are at least some people who are woefully underestimating this country,” Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph. “They think Brexit is not going to happen.”
“I am here to tell you that this country will succeed in our new national enterprise, and will succeed mightily.”
“We have a glorious future.”
What about the “divorce bill”?
Johnson also repeated the controversial claim that the government would be 350 million pounds better off per week once outside the EU.
“And yes – once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly 350 million pounds per week,” he says. “It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS (health service).”
What has been the response?
Some colleagues have been angered by the timing.
Johnson later tweeted: “Looking forward to PM’s Florence speech. All behind Theresa for a glorious Brexit.”
May is due to set out her vision for Brexit in a speech in the Italian city of Florence on Friday.
A Downing Street source says Johnson’s views are well-known. “As you will see in the PM’s speech next week, the government is united in our determination to make the most of the opportunities for a successful future outside the EU.”
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the comments laid bare conflicts within May’s government and cut the ground from beneath the prime minister’s authority.
“On the day of a terror attack where Britons were maimed, just hours after the threat level is raised, our only thoughts should be on service,” said the leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, Ruth Davidson.
Will Tanner, a former adviser to May, says the timing is astonishing, self-serving and disloyal. “The real PM just raised the threat level. Meanwhile, a guy who wants to replace her issues a prelude to resignation, to save face over 350 million pounds. Hmmm.”
A prominent Brexiteer
A favourite with grassroots members of the Conservative Party, Johnson had been expected to challenge for the leadership after May gambled away her parliamentary majority in a June election she did not need to call.
He publicly pledged his loyalty instead. However, the Times newspaper reported earlier this week that Johnson believed he had since been sidelined as May prepares to compromise over the divorce bill with the EU to ease the negotiations.
During the campaign, Johnson traveled around Britain on a bus emblazoned with a slogan suggesting the UK was sending 350 million pounds a week to the EU – a figure rejected as inaccurate by experts.