Britain’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson accused Prime Minister Theresa May of betraying millions of Brexit voters and urged the government to rethink its strategy, adding that the country would never again have the chance to get it right.
Johnson, who led the main Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum, resigned this month over May’s strategy, triggering the government’s biggest crisis since she lost her parliamentary majority after calling a snap election last year.
“It is not too late to save Brexit,” Johnson told parliament in his resignation speech on Wednesday. “We have time in these negotiations – we have changed tack once and we can change again.
With the ruling Conservative party deeply divided over Brexit, Johnson said he backed the prime minister but savaged her Brexit policy saying it would leave Britain in a “miserable, permanent limbo”.
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Johnson said the vision set out by May in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017 for a “strong independent, self-governing Britain” with a focus on having independent trade and regulation had never been turned into a firm negotiating position.
Instead, the government is proposing to negotiate the closest possible commercial links – “a common rule book” – for goods trade with the bloc, saying this is the only way to balance political and economic priorities for Brexit.
Johnson denounced the plan agreed as a “Brexit in name only” which would leave Britain in a state of “economic vassalage”.
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He said Britain had become mired in a fog of self-doubt and that there had been a stealthy retreat over the last 18 months from what he called the “bright certainties” of May’s earlier vision of Brexit.
The government narrowly won three votes in parliament on trade and customs arrangements this week despite rebellions by pro-European members of her party.
Many Brexit or “Leave” campaigners feel they are losing ground to voices questioning the meaning of the 2016 vote, a debate which has deepened divisions and prompted some to predict a Brexit betrayal.
Johnson warned against making the “the fatal mistake of underestimating the intelligence of the public” by saying one thing to the EU and pretending to do another thing to the public.
“We should not and need not be stampeded by anyone,” Johnson said. “There is time. And if the prime minister can fix that vision once again before us then I believe she can deliver a greatBrexit for Britain.”