Theresa May is on the brink of ‘total surrender’ to the EU, Boris Johnson has warned, as pressure intensifies on the prime minister.
The former foreign secretary urged the Cabinet to mutiny against the prime minister’s withdrawal plans at a crunch meeting on Tuesday.
If Mrs May’s plans for a backstop customs deal with the EU, aimed at preventing a hard border in Northern Ireland, went through Britain could be reduced to the status of a colony, he claimed.
Plans for a backstop, which would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU if the Irish border issue is not resolved, would be worse than remaining in the EU, Mr Johnson added.
In a stinging attack in his Daily Telegraph column, Mr Johnson said Mrs May’s agenda would see the UK ‘remain in captivity’.
He wrote: ‘Under these proposals we are agreeing that the EU would have a say on whether this country is capable of making that final exit from the EU’s essential institution, the customs union.
‘In other words, we are on the verge of signing up for something even worse than the current constitutional position.
‘These are terms that might be enforced on a colony.’
Mr Johnson claimed that ‘even if the Cabinet mutinies – as they ought – it will make little difference’.
He wrote: ‘Even if we agree with the EU that the UK must have a unilateral break clause, so that we can go our own sweet way at a time of our own choosing, it is irrelevant because the programme and ambition of the Government is to remain in captivity, to stay in our cell, even if we are given the theoretical key to escape.’
Hope of getting the Cabinet to sign off on Brexit proposals on Tuesday appeared to be rapidly receding, as the EU has reportedly rejected plans for an independent arbitration clause that could allow the UK to quit a backstop deal on the Northern Ireland border.
The apparent impasse makes it harder for Mrs May to secure a special EU conference in November to settle Brexit terms.
But despite this, the prime minister’s key Brexit adviser Olly Robbins held talks in Brussels oer the weekend.
She is facing pressure from both wings of the Tory party following the shock resignation from the Government of Jo Johnson – Boris’ brother and a staunch Remainer.
It sparked speculation that more pro-EU ministers could also quit.
Former culture secretary John Whittingdale, a Brexiteer, said Mrs May would have to quit if MPs reject any Brexit deal she brought back to the Commons.
He told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour: ‘I think if the prime minister’s Brexit plan doesn’t get through Parliament, I think it’s quite difficult to see how the prime minister can continue because she has staked her credibility.
‘It’s very hard for her to turn round and say ‘OK, well my plan’s been torn up by Parliament, I’ll go away and think of another one.”
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, will update EU ministers on Brexit at a general affairs council meeting in Brussels on Monday.