London: Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson said he was not going to resign, when questioned on Tuesday following reports that he could quit before the weekend if his Brexit demands were not met by Prime Minister Theresa May.
May is due to make a speech on Brexit on Friday and the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that close friends of Johnson believe he will have no choice but to walk away if she advocates permanently paying for access to the EU’s single market.
Speaking in New York, Johnson was asked by reporters if he planned to resign in footage aired by Sky News.
“No ... Of course not, we’re going to deliver a fantastic Brexit,” he said. “We’re working together, and the key thing is to make sure Britain can take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit provides.”
Late on Monday Johnson openly discussed leaving office in an interview.
On Tuesday he joked about the Cabinet being a “nest of singing birds” when intercepted by reporters after a jog in New York.
May told reporters on a trip to North America on Monday that Johnson’s 4,000-word essay on his Brexit vision wasn’t authorised and that she is in control.
Johnson’s manoeuvres have thrown plans for her Florence speech into disarray. She is hoping to break the deadlock in negotiations, which have stalled over the question of the UK’s divorce settlement. There is speculation May will use her speech to signal that Britain will keep paying money to the EU after it quits the bloc, as part of efforts to ensure a smooth transition.
May’s authority over the Conservative Party was shredded after she called a snap election and lost her majority in June. Colleagues including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who wants to maintain ties to Europe and was previously shut out by May, have now gained greater clout. Johnson released his Brexit vision just as the rest of the Cabinet was mostly coming together around a common stance for the split.
His foray risks the wrath of colleagues as he’s perceived as putting his own ambitions ahead of government unity. May needs to make a political calculation if she can afford to let go of him or if she still needs his stamp of approval.
“There are rules called collective responsibility,” former Tory Chancellor Kenneth Clarke told BBC Radio 4. “Sounding off in this way is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately after the general election it’s difficult for her to sack him.”
May will hold a special cabinet meeting on the eve of her Brexit speech, a spokesman said Tuesday, as she seeks to bring her ministers in line behind her EU strategy.
“There will be a cabinet meeting on Thursday morning ahead of the speech on Friday”, when May will provide an update on her Brexit plans in Florence, Italy, a Downing Street spokesman said.