Boris throws down gauntlet to PM

PUBLISHED: 14:56 02 October 2018

Boris Johnson at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference 
Photo: PA

Boris Johnson at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Brexiteer Boris Johnson used his speech at Tory conference to make a clear bid for leadership denouncing the prime minister's Chequers plan as an "outrage".

He told 1,400 delegates – some of who had queued for more than two hours to get in – that Theresa May’s plans for Brexit would leave the UK “locked in the tractor beam of Brussels”.

Johnson ignited the Birmingham conference with a speech that will have been watched closely by the prime minister and her backers – and the reaction in the hall will have her rattled.

READ: Jacob Rees-Mogg attends ‘funeral’ for Brexit

He urged Tory delegates to demand that May “chuck Chequers” and returns to the hard Brexit blueprint she first set out in her Lancaster House speech, when she said she would take the UK out of the customs union, single market and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Boris Johnson speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference 
photo: PABoris Johnson speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference photo: PA

The former foreign secretary – who quit May’s cabinet in July in protest at the Chequers plan – received a wild reaction on a scale not seen so far inside the main hall.

Johnson even won loud applause when he suggested that the PM risked being prosecuted under a 14th century law saying that “no foreign court or government shall have jurisdiction in this country”.

He rejected as “total fantasy” the idea that it would be possible to “bodge” Brexit now and then negotiate a better deal after leaving in March 2019.

And he warned that if a deal based on Chequers was agreed with the EU, it would “embolden” those calling for a second referendum – something he said would be “disastrous for trust in politics”.

Johnson added that the prime minister’s blueprint – which ties Britain to a common rulebook with the EU for trade in goods – would be “politically humiliating for a £2 trillion economy” and would prevent the UK from making its own laws and subject it to the directives of Brussels.

“This is not pragmatic, it is not a compromise. It is dangerous and unstable - politically and economically,” he said.

“My fellow Conservatives, this is not democracy. This is not what we voted for. This is an outrage.

“This is not taking back control: this is forfeiting control.”

And he warned: “If we get it wrong – if we bottle Brexit now – believe me, the people of this country will find it hard to forgive.

He was loudly clapped and cheered as he said: “For one last time, I urge our friends in Government to deliver what the people voted for, to back Theresa May in the best way possible – by softly, quietly, and sensibly backing her original plan.”

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