Boris Johnson has labelled Theresa May’s Brexit plan ‘deranged’ and ‘preposterous’ as Conservative party conference kicks off in Birmingham.
Tory sources expect Johnson to use the gathering in a bid to further undermine the prime minister as he builds his bid to topple her and take over in Number 10.
His comments came as the prime minister set out plans aimed at bolstering her position, announcing measures to crack down on foreigners buying homes and proposals for a nationwide festival in 2022 – the year of the next scheduled general election.
In a typically bizarre interview with the Sunday Times Johnson said the UK should build a bridge to Ireland and put the HS2 rail line on hold to focus on a high-speed link in the north of England.
He then focussed on Brexit branding May’s plan for a facilitated customs arrangement – part of the Chequers proposal to break the impasse in Brexit talks – ‘entirely preposterous’.
‘Unlike the prime minister, I fought for this, I believe in it, I think it’s the right thing for our country and I think that what is happening now is, alas, not what people were promised in 2016,’ he said.
He added: ‘I think we need to make the case for markets. I don’t think we should caper insincerely on socialist territory. You can’t beat Corbyn by becoming Corbyn.’
May used her own interview with the Sunday Times to set out her political agenda.
Under her plans, people and businesses who do not pay tax in Britain will face a surcharge of between 1% and 3% when they buy a property, with the money funding measures to tackle rough sleeping.
Signalling that she intended to remain in Number 10 for years to come, she said: ‘There’s a long-term job to do.’
She added: ‘It’s not just about Brexit, it’s about the domestic agenda as well.
‘I think we’re at a very important and historic moment for the UK. There are real opportunities for the UK outside the European Union.’
Setting out her plans for a festival in post-Brexit Britain, she said: ‘We want to showcase what makes our country great today.
‘We want to capture that spirit for a new generation, celebrate our nation’s diversity and talent, and mark this moment of national renewal with a once-in-a-generation celebration.’