May slams Boris Johnson for urging Tories to ditch her Chequers plan

‘He wants to tear up our guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland’: May slams Boris Johnson for urging Tories to ditch her Chequers Brexit plan saying he is putting the UK at risk

  • Boris Johnson has delivered a stark ultimatum to Theresa may over her Brexit plan at Tory conference rally 
  • Mr Johnson delivered another savage attack on Mrs May’s Chequers plan for Brexit branding it ‘outrageous’
  • PM lashed back by suggesting Mr Johnson would ‘tear up our guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland’
  • Said she had not watched the speech as she was busy with other duties but was ‘cross’ about the content 

Theresa May slammed Boris Johnson for putting the UK at risk today after he launched an excoriating attack on her Brexit plan.

The Prime Minister said the former foreign secretary wanted to ‘tear up our guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland’ by undermining all the progress she had made on Brexit.

Meanwhile, allies of Mrs May accused Mr Johnson of acting in his own ‘self-interest’, lacking ‘credibility’ and not being ‘serious’ enough to lead the country.

The vicious backlash came after Mr Johnson delivered a stark ultimatum that Mrs May must ‘chuck’ her Chequers plan, raging that it denied the result of the referendum and could even be illegal.

At a packed rally at Tory conference in Birmingham, he suggested the ‘backstop’ agreed with the EU as part of the divorce package should be dropped and the government should push for a looser Canada-style trade deal.

But in a round of interviews this afternoon, Mrs May made clear her anger at the intervention, saying: ‘He wants to tear up our guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland. 

‘Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. We are all – he and I and all members here are members of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

‘That’s because we believe in the Union of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is part of that Union.

‘We have a guarantee for the people of Northern Ireland and we are upholding that. Our Chequers plan does that. It is the only plan on the table at the moment that does.’ 

Mrs May said she had not watched the speech, but was ‘cross’ about the content – pointing out that Mr Johnson had been part of the government that agreed the terms of the withdrawal package with Brussels in December.

The Prime Minister (pictured at Tory conference today) said the former foreign secretary wanted to ‘tear up our guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland’ by undermining all the progress she had made on Brexit

In his speech (pictured), Boris Johnson warned that Britain had to show ‘self-belief’ and stand up for ‘freedom’, as well as jibing at Philip Hammond over dodgy Treasury forecasts

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    • May MISSES Boris Johnson’s assault on her Brexit plans after…


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      ‘Now is the moment to chuck Chequers’: Tory activists go…

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    Mr Johnson’s barnstorming performance was hailed by Tory Brexiteers – and underlined his appeal to the party’s rank-and-file..

    In a tough message to the premier that provoked cheers from activists, Mr Johnson said he was asking ‘one last time’ for the Government to switch back to the ‘original plan’ the PM set out at Lancaster House.

    He said: ‘For one last time, I urge our friends in government to deliver what the people voted for, to back Theresa May in the best way possible, by softly, quietly, and sensibly backing her original plan.’

    Slamming his fist on the lectern, Mr Johnson said the decisions on the UK’s future could not be ‘fudged’ as Brussels would merely take the opportunity to force the reversal of the 2016 referendum. 

    ‘Do not believe that we can somehow get it wrong now and fix it later – get out properly next year, or the year after. Total fantasy. The opposite will happen,’ he insisted.  

    Mrs May put a brave face on the Brexit divisions wracking the Conservatives today. She is pictured with party chairman Brandon Lewis (front left) and husband Philip (rear centre)

    The hall at the conference centre in Birmingham was packed for Mr Johnson’s keynote address today

    Former Brexit Secretary David Davis (pictured centre) was in the front row for Boris Johnson’s speech in Birmingham today, along with leading Eurosceptic MP Steve Baker (left) and Anne-Marie Trevelyan (right) 

    Organisers had to open another tier in the hall to accommodate the demand today, with around 1,500 people squeezing into the hall.

    Eurosceptics including David Davis, Steve Baker, Priti Patel, Iain Duncan-Smith, Owen Paterson and Jonathan Redwood were in the front row. Mr Johnson’s father Stanley and sister Rachel were also in the crowd.  

    DUP leader threatens to kill May’s Irish border backstop fudge 

    DUP leader Arlene Foster pictured centre at Tory conference today

    DUP leader Arlene Foster threatened to kill Theresa May’s compromise plan for the Irish border backstop before it has even been finalised today.

    The PM has been struggling to find a way through the impasse with the EU over how to ensure there is no hard line between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit.

    She has flatly rejected a call from Brussels to keep the province within its customs jurisdiction after the rest of the UK leaves.

    But there has been mounting speculation that the government will try to fudge the issue by accepting more regulatory checks – addressing the EU’s fears about undermining the integrity of the single market.

    The ‘backstop’ for avoiding a hard border is the biggest obstacle to striking an agreement on the divorce package, and Mrs May has vowed to bring forward a new plan soon.

    Mr Johnson blasted: ‘What the Chequers proposals show is that the United Kingdom, for all its power and might and network of influences around the world, for all its venerable parliamentary history, was ultimately unable to take back control.

    ‘And instead of reasserting our ability to make our own laws, the UK will be effectively paraded in manacles down the Rue de la Loi like Caractacus.’ 

    Mr Johnson said ‘after 1000 years of independence this country might really lose confidence in its democratic institutions’.

    He said he was devastated that ‘we should be so demoralised and so exhausted as to submit those institutions – forever – to foreign rule’.

    ‘If I have a function here today – it is to try, with all humility, to put some lead in the collective pencil, to stop what seems to me to be a ridiculous seeping away of our self-belief, and to invite you to feel realistic and justified confidence in what we can do,’ he said.  

    Mr Johnson warned that pushing ahead with the Chequers blueprint could fuel far-right and far-left sentiment in the UK. 

    ‘If we get it wrong, if we proceed with this undemocratic solution, if we remain half-in half out, we will protract this toxic tedious business that is frankly so off-putting to sensible middle of the road people who want us to get on with their priorities,’ he said.

    ‘If we cheat the electorate – and Chequers is a cheat – we will escalate the sense of mistrust. 

    ‘We will give credence to those who cry betrayal, and I am afraid we will make it more likely that the ultimate beneficiary of the chequers deal will be the far right in the form of Ukip.’ 

    In a sharp swipe at Mr Hammond, Mr Johnson said the party must not try to chase Jeremy Corbyn on tax and spend.

    The Chancellor said yesterday some taxes would rise to fund extra spending on the NHS announced by Theresa May in the summer.

    Mr Johnson said: ‘We should set our taxes at the optimum rate to stimulate investment and growth, and we should be constantly aiming not to increase but to cut taxes.

    ‘Mindful of the insight of the great 14th century Tunisian sage Ibn Khaldoun – picked up by Arthur Laffer – that you can often cut taxes to increase yields. 

    ‘We should have as our objective – as soon as possible – to cut taxes for those on low and modest incomes, because it is Conservative to give people back control of their money.’ 

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      Slamming his fist on the lectern, Mr Johnson said the decisions on the UK’s future could not be ‘fudged’ as Brussels would merely take the opportunity to force the reversal of the referendum


      Mr Johnson went down a storm with Tory rank-and-file in the hall – but has faced a major backlash from senior ministers

      Mr Johnson’s father Stanley (left) and sister Rachel (right) took selfies in the hall as they waited to hear his words today

      Mrs May has tried to shrug off the challenge to her Brexit plan from Mr Johnson and a group of angry Tory Eurosceptics

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        Former Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith – who was sat in the front row watching Mr Johnson – heaped praise on the speech and warned Mrs May the Tory party ousts leaders who do not listen to its members.

        Asked if Mr Johnson could be the next Tory leader if the PM refuses to ditch her Chequers plan, he said: ‘The beauty of the Conservative Party and why it is the longest standing political party and most successful political party pretty much in the developed world is because it knows when it has to make a change.

        ‘It gets to that point and discovers that actually, the party’s collective intelligence is telling the leadership – you are in the wrong place.

        ‘Sometimes, and I have stood as leader myself, you need to recognise that they are saying something to you.

        Tory chief says MPs lie publicly about formally trying to trigger leadership contest 

        Some Tories lie publicly about having written letters demanding Theresa May be ousted as leader, a senior figure revealed today.

        As chair of the 1922 committee, Graham Brady is obliged to call a vote of no confidence when he is notified in writing by 15 per cent of the party’s MPs.

        But at a fringe event in Birmingham Mr Brady revealed he had seen politicians talking about sending him letters that he never received.

        ‘There are instances where I will see a Conservative colleague on the television saying they have written a letter to me when they haven’t,’ he said. 

        ‘I will see them on the television saying they had withdrawn the letter to me, when they haven’t sent it in the first place. 

        ‘You have to be careful what you believe.’ 

        ‘And you need to bear that in mind because not just them, but vast swathes of the country are saying –be proud, we are British, we don’t need to be on bended knee to the EU, we don’t need to be begging them for deals, we need to be telling them that if you want to do business with the fifth largest economy in the world you have got to come to us and tell us what you are going to do to make that deal.’

        Mr Duncan-Smith praised Mr Johnson for spelling out an upbeat Brexit message.

        He said: ‘He was also very clear that he wanted to support the prime Minister but on the Lancaster House speech – in other words standing up to take control of our rules our laws and our borders and Chequers does no deliver on almost every area where we become rule takes rather than rule makers.

        ‘And I think this is a message to the Government – look, you can see this hall could have been filled half again by people wanting to hear an upbeat message about who we are and where we are going.

        ‘And I have to tell you, I want the Prime Minister to reflect that tomorrow.

        ‘We tried – she sent Chequers to the EU and they said they didn’t like it.

        ‘We need to tell them now – if you want free trade, you have got to break the backstop nonsense, otherwise we are going to WTO.  

        ‘She would get a standing ovation and the country will back her because they want to get out, that is what they voted for.’

        He hit back at Tory MPs who say Mr Johnson has been overreaching himself, saying: ‘I think some of my colleagues in government have been under reaching themselves and therefore they needed a little lesson in what politics is all about.

        ‘Politics is about delivering what people ask for. We had a referendum – the biggest turn out ever in British history and they voted to leave and they wanted to get on with it.’ 

        Tory MP and leading Brexiteer John Redwood said the PM must listen and take heed of Mr Johnson’s words – gesturing to the 15,00-seater auditorium behind him he said: ‘This is the heart of the nation, and the heart of the party.

        ‘This is not some fringe element, this is what 17.4 million people voted for and we want to leave now….we want to get our control back.

        ‘We voted to be a free and open democracy and we are fed up with not being able to run our own borders.’

        Activists had queued round the block at the conference in Birmigham to see Mr Johnson’s dramatic intervention

        Mr Johnson was accompanied by supporters including Chris Green -front left) and Anne-Marie Trevelyan (right)

        Mr Johnson was flanked by MPs including Conor Burns (left) as he made his first appearance at the Tory conference this year

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          Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told Sky News said that the PM must finally listen to her critics and ditch Chequers for the ‘national interest’.

          Asked what will happen if she does not, he added: ‘The truth is the clock is running down to March 29 – we really don’t have time to burn.’

          ‘We are all pulling out all the stops to make it clear that members here at conference want a different policy, and members of Parliament in the party want a different policy, to really, really implore the Prime minister to change that policy because we really don’t have time to waste.’

          But Justice Secretary David Gauke said: ‘Boris always attracts lots of attention but now is the time for a credible and serious plan, and credible serious leadership.

          ‘We have that from Theresa May. I think there are others who would struggle to provide that type of leadership.’

          Some of the activists who attended were also less categorical about their endorsement of Mr Johnson.

          Reacting to the speech, David Drew, who sits on Test Valley Borough Council, said: ‘Boris is a great performer. He obviously wowed the crowd. 

          ‘I was a little concerned when he got such applause for saying we should chuck Chequers because I think it’s a starting site.’

          Asked if Mr Johnson would be the next party leader, he replied: ‘I doubt it. I’m not even sure he will get on the ballot paper.’

          Carol York, a party member from Mid Sussex, said it was a ‘good, rousing speech’.

          She added: ‘It was very good and he supported Theresa May as well.’  

          Warning of the danger of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement, business minister Claire Perry told Sky News: ‘No deal is a recipe for a catastrophic series of consequences.

          ‘It’s also a way of crashing the economy and doing great damage to our most productive industries.

          ‘We have to be prepared for it and we are preparing for it.’ 

          Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum, said: ‘Claire Perry speaks the inconvenient truth – no deal would be a disaster for the UK.

          ‘But she must be just as candid in admitting that Chequers would be nearly as damaging.

          ‘That is why we need a final say on the deal and a chance to exit from Brexit.’

          Brexiteer MP Priti Patel (left) and Mr Johnson’s father Stanley (centre) were seen applauding – but sister Rachel (right) seemed less impressed

          The speech by Mr Johnson was easily the hottest ticket at Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today

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            A clearly tetchy Mrs May was repeatedly grilled over her rival’s manoeuvring during a round of interviews this morning – but tried to ignore the questions by talking about her other priorities.

            With a grim smile, Mrs May said she expected Mr Johnson’s speech to be a ‘lively event’.

            But she insisted she was focused on improving opportunities for young people and delivering her Brexit deal.

            Downing Street made a bold bid to distract from the circus around Mr Johnson today by unveiling the government’s post-Brexit immigration policies, saying EU nationals will in future be treated the same as people from all around the world. 

            Meanwhile, the PM’s allies launched a series of vicious barbs at the ambitious politician – with one bald MP joking that he would be ‘washing my hair’ rather than watching Mr Johnson speak. 

            Mrs May appeared not to know exactly when Mr Johnson was speaking as she referred to an ‘evening’ event when he is actually due on stage at 1pm

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              How did senior Tories react to Boris Johnson’s conference speech?

              Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith:

              I think this is a message to the Government – look, you can see this hall could have been filled half again by people wanting to hear an upbeat message about who we are and where we are going.  

              Ex-Cabinet minister Owen Paterson:

              ‘I thought it was absolutely tremendous – I agreed with every word.’ 

              Ex-Cabinet minister John Redwood:

              ‘This is not some fringe element, this is what 17.4 million people voted for and we want to leave now….we want to get our control back.

              ‘We voted to be a free and open democracy and we are fed up with not being able to run our own borders.’

              Tory Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns:

              ‘People are eager to see Boris – he really connects with our activists. 

              ‘Our country is crying out for a Brexit vision.’

               Prime Minister Theresa May:

              ‘He wants to tear up our guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland…  

              ‘We have a guarantee for the people of Northern Ireland and we are upholding that. Our Chequers plan does that. It is the only plan on the table at the moment that does.’ 

              Justice Secretary David Gauke:

              ‘Boris always attracts lots of attention but now is the time for a credible and serious plan, and credible serious leadership.

              ‘We have that from Theresa May. I think there are others who would struggle to provide that type of leadership.’ 

              Scottish Secretary David Mundell

               “Unfortunately Mr Johnson seems to behave in a way that suggests he is only focused on his own self interest and not on the interests of our country, and I find that very disappointing.

              “I think what is a fact is that Mr Johnson is not an asset for the Scottish Conservative Party. I don’t think people find that his behaviour is one that would endear him to voters.

               

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