Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson read out a personal statement in Commons earlier in which he took a veiled swipe at Russia, outlined his opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit plan, and said “it’s not too late to save Brexit”.
After Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin presented a united front on Monday to deny Russian collusion in the US election - comments that Trump has since backtracked on - Johnson condemned Russia’s “barbaric use of chemical weapons”.
“I want to thank you for granting me this opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of the [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] FCO, who’ve done an outstanding job over the last two years,” he began.
“I am very proud that we have rallied against Russia’s barbaric use of chemical weapons, with an unprecedented 28 countries joining together to expel 150 spies in protest at what happened at Salisbury.”
He also praised the FCO for “rejuvenating the Commonwealth”.
He praised Theresa May’s “courage and resilience” and said he agreed with the “vision for this country she set out with great clarity at Lancaster House on Jan 17 last year”.
“A country eager, as she said, not just just to do a bold, ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, out of the customs union and out of the single market, but also to do new free trade deals around the world,” he continued.
“I thought that was the right vision then. I think so today.”
‘Happy to speak out against Chequers’
He then went on to explain why he lost faith in the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans.
“In the 18 months that have followed… a fog of self-doubt has descended,” he said, and criticised the government for not presenting the Lancaster House vision to Brussels.
“Instead we dithered. We burned through negotiating capital. We agreed to hand over a £40 billion exit fee, with no discussion of our future economic relationship.”
Johnson compared the Lancaster House plan with the Chequers proposal, and said the latter would have the UK accepting “every jot and tittle” of EU regulation “for our own economic health”.
“The result of accepting the EU’s rule books… is that we have must less scope to do free trade deals - as the Chequers paper actually acknowledges,” he said, and added he was “happy to be able to speak out against it.
‘If the PM can fix the vision, she can deliver Brexit’
“Mr Speaker, it is not too late to save Brexit,” declared Johnson.
He urged the government to “explicitly aim once again for the glorious vision of Lancaster House” instead of the “miserable permanent limbo of Chequers”.
“If the PM can fix that vision once again before us then I believe she can deliver a great Brexit for Britain,” he added.
May told the liaison committee - which is made up of all the chairs of the various Commons select committees - that no deal was better than a bad deal, and that she would not set out the specifics and “consequences” of a deal until one had been made.