Friday, 8 June 2018

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson calls for more 'guts' in Brexit talks

Boris Johnson has criticised the UK government's Brexit talks strategy, saying it lacks "guts" and suggested Donald Trump could do a better job.

The foreign secretary also took a swipe at Chancellor Philip Hammond, calling the Treasury "the heart of Remain", in comments to a private dinner.

He said the Brexit talks were heading for "meltdown" and Leave supporters may not get the deal they expected.

Downing Street said Theresa May had "full confidence" in Mr Johnson.

Brexit-supporting Tory MPs applauded the foreign secretary but Mr Hammond said his "advice to colleagues" was to engage with the EU and to understand their concerns.
"My experience has been that a collaborative approach is generally more productive than a confrontational approach," he was quoted as saying at a conference in Berlin.

In the recording, obtained by Buzzfeed, Mr Johnson warns the UK could remain "locked in orbit around the EU" and claimed the Irish border issue - one of the main sticking points in talks with Brussels - had been allowed to dictate "the whole of our agenda".
"It's so small and there are so few firms that actually use that border regularly, it's just beyond belief that we're allowing the tail to wag the dog in this way," he said.

The foreign secretary was apparently speaking to around 20 people in a private room after an Institute of Directors reception on Wednesday night.

It follows a day of wrangling over the government's "backstop" plan in the event of no customs deal being agreed before Brexit.

In the leaked comments, Mr Johnson said the prime minister was "going to go into a phase where we are much more combative with Brussels".

He added: "You've got to face the fact there may now be a meltdown. OK? I don't want anybody to panic during the meltdown. No panic. Pro bono publico, no bloody panic. It's going to be all right in the end."

Brexit will be "irreversible" and will happen, Mr Johnson said, but the "risk is that it will not be the one we want".

He added: "Unless you make the change, unless you have the guts to go for the independent policy, you're never going to get the economic benefits of Brexit. You'll never get the political benefits of Brexit."

He was said to have described concerns over the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic as "pure millennium bug stuff" and suggested Chancellor Philip Hammond's department was "basically the heart of Remain".

Speaking about the Treasury, he added: "They don't want any disruption of the economy. So they're sacrificing all the medium and long-term gains out of fear of short-term disruption."

Conservative MP Peter Bone rejected suggestions Mr Johnson was being disloyal to Mrs May.

"The prime minister probably agrees with him as well," he told the BBC's Daily Politics.

The talks, he said, were "being held back by Remain officials who are driving this thing" - suggesting they should all be removed and Brexit Secretary David Davis given a "free hand".

BBC     News.

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