- Transport minister Jo Johnson resigns over Theresa May’s handling of Brexit.
- Johnson says he will vote against May’s deal and calls for a second EU referendum.
- His departure spells trouble for the prime minister’s hopes of getting her deal through parliament.
- Johnson is the 18th minister to resign from May’s government since the general election.
LONDON – Jo Johnson has resigned as Theresa May’s Transport Minister over her handling of Brexit talks and declared his support for another referendum on leaving the European Union.
Johnson announced on Friday that he was quitting the government because Britain was “barrelling towards an incoherent Brexit” and claimed “what is now being proposed won’t be anything like what was promised two years ago.”
The MP for Orpington added: “To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.”
In an article published online, Johnson backed his brother Boris, who also quit the government earlier this year in protest against May’s handling of Brexit negotiations.
“My brother Boris, who led the leave campaign, is as unhappy with the Government’s proposals as I am,” he said.
“Indeed he recently observed that the proposed arrangements were ‘substantially worse than staying in the EU.’ On that he is unquestionably right.”
Johnson became the latest Conservative MP to declare support for another Brexit referendum, writing that the prime minister should “go back to the people” on Brexit.
“I reject this false choice between the PM’s deal and ‘no deal’ chaos,” he wrote.
“On this most crucial of questions, I believe it is entirely right to go back to the people and ask them to confirm their decision to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, to give them the final say on whether we leave with the Prime Minister’s deal or without it.”
“To do anything less will do grave damage to our democracy.”
A senior source in the People’s Vote campaign told Business Insider last week that up to three Conservative MPs would declare support for another referendum this month. Tory MPs Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston, Justine Greening, Philip Lee and Guto Bebb are already supporters of the campaign for another Brexit referendum.
“My loyalty to my party is undimmed,” Johnson added.
“I have never rebelled on any issue before now. But my duty to my constituents and our great nation has forced me to act. I have today written to the Prime Minister asking her to accept my resignation from the Government. It is now my intention to vote against this Withdrawal Agreement.”
Labour accused May of losing her grip on power.
“Jo Johnson is the eighteenth minister to resign from Theresa May’s government. She has lost all authority and is incapable of negotiating a Brexit deal within her own party, let alone with the EU,” shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman said.
“Theresa May is in office, but not in power.”
Johnson is well-respected among Conservative MP where he has been spoken of as a possible future leader.