Brexit: Should Boris Johnson resign?

In Depth: Foreign Secretary's dream of leading the Tory Party may be turning into dust

Boris Johnson at Number Ten
(Image credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Tory grandee Ken Clarke has no doubts: Boris Johnson deserves to be sacked.

The only reason the Foreign Secretary is safe after penning his 4,000-word plan for a “glorious” Brexit, said Clarke, is that Theresa May does not have a majority government.

“In any normal circumstances, he would have been sacked the day afterwards,” the veteran politician added.

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Many saw Johnson’s article as him plotting yet another bid for the Tory leadership, a position he has long yearned for. The last time there was speculation about the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip mounting a leadership bid was merely three months ago, when, after being spotted having a drink with Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, a key ally of the Prime Minister, he was forced to say he wouldn’t consider standing until 2019.

Some argued Johnson was forcing May to harden her stance on leaving the EU after rumours she favoured a Swiss-style deal with the bloc, with the UK paying for access to the single market and granting free movement of people. His allies reportedly told The Daily Telegraph he “could not live with” a Swiss-style Brexit and would resign from the cabinet if this were to be the basis of May’s speech in Florence, Italy on Friday.

Johnson, however, downplayed the reports.

“I am mystified by all this stuff,” he told The Guardian. “Not me, guv. I don’t know where it is coming from, honestly. It feels to me like an attempt to keep the great snore-athon story about my article running. I think that is what is going on.”

Johnson was one of the leading faces of the Leave campaign, but has been notably sidelined in the official negotiations with the EU. He wrote his 4,000-word manifesto, he said, because he believed it was time people heard what he had to say on Brexit.

Not everyone wanted to listen, however.

'Grassroots revolt'

“Clearly, [Johnson] is not directly involved in the negotiations on behalf of the British Government with the EU,” EU commissioner Phil Hogan told the London Evening Standard. “He certainly has made very strange statements that are completely contradictory and completely at odds with his own Government’s position as well as the possibility of being reasonable with the EU in finalising a deal.

“So it strikes me that he is completely out of the loop in relation to the type of concrete proposals that are required and that are being considered by the UK government.

“Mr Johnson is behaving and acting and speaking strangely. It’s clear that his reputation is not good and he is a diminished figure in the government.”

According to the Telegraph, Johnson faced a “grassroots revolt” over his article and had the support of fewer than one in three Tory association chairmen.

“I wish he would keep quiet,” David Elliott, chairman of Business Secretary Greg Clark's local Conservative association, told the paper. “He tends to be a bit of a loose cannon.”

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