LONDON — Boris Johnson has been left isolated after his intervention on Brexit as cabinet colleagues refused to support him and he was accused of a “clear misuse of official statistics.”
Friends of Environment Secretary Michael Gove denied that he had backed Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd accused him of “back-seat driving” on Sunday.
Sir David Norgrove, the chairman of the UK statistics authority, criticised the foreign secretary in a letter to him for repeating his claim that there would be £350 million a week available to be spent by the government after Brexit.
Norgrove said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the £350 million claim, but Johnson accused Norgrove of a “wilful distortion of the text of my article.”
The foreign secretary published a 4,000-word plan for a “glorious” Brexit on Friday night, which was reportedly not cleared with Downing Street, a week ahead of May making a major speech on Brexit in Florence.
There were suggestions that Gove supported Johnson in his intervention, however, a spokesperson for the environment secretary said: “The first Michael knew about Boris’s article was when it was published on Friday night.”
Allies of Gove told the Times newspaper that he accepted that the UK might have to continue making payments to the EU as part of a transition deal.
In his Daily Telegraph article, Johnson hinted he did not support this, writing: “We would not expect to pay for access to their markets any more than they would expect to pay for access to ours.”
A friend of the environment secretary said: “If there was a suicide pact of that nature, you’d think Boris would have had the courtesy to tell us he was going to jump.”
Rudd told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that while Johnson’s intervention was “absolutely fine,” she did not want him “managing the Brexit process.”
Damian Green, first secretary of state and de facto deputy prime minister made it clear that Johnson was not going to be sacked.
He told Sky News: “No, he isn’t and the reason is, he, like the rest of the Cabinet, like the prime minister, is all about wanting to get the best deal for the British people.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable called Boris Johnson a “Poundland Donald Trump” and suggested the cabinet was irreparably split.
He said: “Theresa May must slap down Boris Johnson in the strongest terms or she will lose the last vestige of her authority to negotiate Brexit. The cabinet is more split than an oak tree struck by lightning.”
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