Theresa May slaps down Boris Johnson over Brexit article

REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

The prime minister has been forced to insist that she is in the driving seat with support from the cabinet after Boris Johnson’s apparent challenge to her Brexit position.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson released a 4,000 word essay over the weekend which appeared to set red lines for the prime minister over the Brexit transitional period and therefore challenged her authority. Many Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers believed it was a leadership bid by the foreign secretary, leading the home secretary, Amber Rudd, to publicly declare that Boris is having a go at “backseat driving”.

On Monday the prime minister hit back, telling reporters that “this government is driven from the front, and we’re all going to the same destination.

“We’re all agreed on the basis of the Lancaster House speech which set out the principles for our negotiation that we are working hard to get the best possible deal for the UK.”

She also refused to side with the foreign secretary’s claim that Britain will “take back control of £350 million”, instead arguing that “the amount of money that goes into the European Union each year, the reality is it varies. It’s based on a whole variety of factors.”

Though she fell short of imposing any direct discipline on the foreign secretary – in normal circumstances the prime minister would be expected to sack him -, the blowback was clear. The prime minister doesn’t approve of Johnson’s article, but is too weak to sack him for rebelling.

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