Boris Johnson: I won’t quit over Theresa May’s Brexit speech

Boris Johnson has insisted he will not be resigning from the cabinet over but said he hoped the prime minister would avoid hitching the UK too closely to the European Union after its departure.

In an interview with the Guardian in New York, the man who last year fronted the Vote Leave campaign said it was about time people heard what he had to say on Brexit and played down reports that might quit this weekend.

“I am mystified by all this stuff,” Johnson said. “Not me, guv. I don’t know where it is coming from, honestly. It feels to me like an attempt to keep the great snore-athon story about my article running. I think that is what is going on.”

The foreign secretary was speaking on Tuesday after a day of chaos and contradiction over his political ambitions, during which reports suggested he could resign shortly after gives a highly anticipated Brexit update speech in Florence this Friday.

That was swiftly contradicted by friends of Johnson who instead said he “could not live with” a version of Brexit in which the UK paid to have access to the single market on a permanent basis.

Johnson, speaking in a wide-ranging interview that touched on Syria and Britain’s relationship with Donald Trump, stressed that Britain needed a future relationship with the EU that “allows the UK to take advantage of the economic opportunities of Brexit”.

His remarks will be seen as a signal that he does not want May to commit to a close legal relationship with the EU similar to the arrangements adopted by Switzerland, which pays for access to the single market. Such an option would restrict UK room for manoeuvre over migration, common regulatory standards or the right to strike trade deals.

Johnson is attending the United Nations general assembly in New York, where he was due to meet May late on Tuesday to discuss the contents of her Florence speech.

Expressing his belief that her remarks would unite the Conservative party, Johnson said: “I am confident she will set out an exciting and positive vision for Brexit and it will be a speech around which everyone can unite.” His comments indicated that a possible clash over the future relationship had been averted for now.

On Saturday, Johnson published a 4,000-word article about Brexit in the Daily Telegraph that was widely interpreted as the first step in a pitch for the party leadership.

 

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