Jo Johnson has resigned as transport minister over Brexit and called for a second referendum.
The brother of former foreign secretary Boris said: “It has become increasingly clear to me that the withdrawal agreement, which is being finalised in Brussels and Whitehall even as I write, will be a terrible mistake.
“Indeed, the choice being presented to the British people is no choice at all.
“The first option is the one the Government is proposing: an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business.
“The second option is a no-deal Brexit that I know as a transport minister will inflict untold damage on our nation.
“To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.”
He added: “Given that the reality of Brexit has turned out to be so far from what was once promised, the democratic thing to do is to give the public the final say.”
— Jo Johnson (@JoJohnsonUK) November 9, 2018
He acknowledged that the Brexit negotiations “have at least united us in fraternal dismay”.
He said that the terms of the Brexit deal being discussed with the EU would mean deciding key issues in the future relationship being put off while the UK is kept in a “boundless transitionary period”. “This is a con on the British people: there is no evidence that the kind of Brexit that we’ve failed to negotiate while we are still members can be magically agreed once the UK has lost its seat at the table.”
The Orpington MP acknowledged that a no-deal Brexit could result in “Kent becoming the Lorry Park of England”, with real questions about guaranteeing supplies of food and medicines.
Even a no-deal Brexit “may well be better than the never-ending purgatory” that Mrs May’s plan would offer, he said.
But in a pointed message to his brother and other Brexiteers, he said: “Inflicting such serious economic and political harm on the country will leave an indelible impression of incompetence in the minds of the public.
“It cannot be what you wanted nor did the 2016 referendum provide any mandate for it.”
He said the public should be asked to confirm their decision to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, whether to accept Mrs May’s plan or leave without a deal.
Boris Johnson tweeted supported for his brother’s resignation.
He wrote: “Boundless admiration as ever for my brother Jo.
“We may not have agreed about Brexit but we are united in dismay at the intellectually and politically indefensible of the UK position.
“This is not taking back control. It is a surrender of control. It does not remotely correspond to the mandate of the people in June 2016.”
Mr Johnson’s sister, The New European columnist Rachel Johnson, tweeted: “Am hugely proud of my honourable and principled brother Jo who has put the interests of the country ahead of his political career.”
Eloise Todd, head of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: “This is an incredibly brave move from Jo Johnson at a time when the public desperately needs more MPs to act in the national interest.
“We’ve been hurtling towards a blindfolded Brexit for too long, so it’s about time that politicians hand back control to the people of this country by giving them the final say on Brexit – with the option to stay and lead in Europe. “There’s a widening gap between those politicians who believe the government’s bad Brexit deal is what this country should accept, and those who believe we can do so much better at the forefront of the EU and the world.
“Well done to Jo Johnson for joining the ranks of those who think we can do better. Other MPs should now follow his lead.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The referendum in 2016 was the biggest democratic exercise in this country’s history. We will not under any circumstances have a second referendum.
“The prime minister thanks Jo Johnson for his work in government.”