- Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insists May will get a “great Brexit deal” and says the Conservative party owes her a “debt.” May and senior ministers snub Johnson’s speech after series of unauthorised interventions from Boris on Brexit. Johnson mocks Corbyn and attacks the press for talking down Britain over Brexit. Former London Mayor says the British people are like a lion that roars.
MANCHESTER – Boris Johnson has publicly sworn loyalty to Theresa May after two weeks in which he repeatedly challenged her leadership over Brexit.
The foreign secretary used his speech to Conservative party conference to insist that May would get a “great Brexit deal” and said the country owed “her a debt for her steadfastness in taking Britain forward.”
However, in an apparent snub to the foreign secretary, May and other senior ministers failed to attend Johnson’s speech, the text of which aides said had been carefully vetted by Downing Street.
Johnson’s comments followed a series of newspaper articles written by the foreign secretary in which he set out his “Brexit red lines” for May. Allies of the foreign secretary briefed that he was on the verge of resigning over his belief that May was drifting towards a softer form of Brexit.
In a series of broadcast interviews on Tuesday, May repeatedly refused to say whether the foreign secretary was “unsackable.”
However, supporters of the prime minister have been angered by Johnson’s behaviour, with many party delegates telling Business Insider that May must bring foreign secretary under control.
Despite the row, Johnson’s speech was warmly received by a packed conference hall. He ranged beyond his brief to level a series of barbs against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who he suggested should be launched into space.
“We have a growing space programme run by my brother Jo Johnson and I have a candidate for the first man we gently blast into orbit and that is the superannuated space cadet from Islington and I know he has an innocent and voletrousered air but his domestic policies would rack up unfair debts for our children and grandchildren and his foreign policies would imperil not just this country but our friends and neighbours as well.”
Talking down Britain
- Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Johnson also used his speech to attack elements of the British press, which he claimed were talking down Britain.
“Every week I pick up British-edited international magazines, of the kind that you will find in the briefcases of jet-setting consultants,” he said.
“Glossy-covered, elegantly written, suspiciously unread. And every week these publications have found new reasons to be slightly less than cheerful about this country.”
He accused the Financial Times of being Eeyore-like.
“Every day a distinguished pink newspaper manages to make Eeyore look positively exuberant and across the world the impression is being given that this country is not up to it. That we are going to bottle out of Brexit and end up in some dingy ante-room of the EU, pathetically waiting for the scraps but no longer in control of the menu,” Johnson said.
He also claimed patriotism for his party, saying that unlike Labour the Conservatives “believe” in Britain.
“We can win the future because we are the party that believes in this country and we believe in the potential of the British people,” he told delegates.
“We are not the lion. We do not claim to be the lion.
“That role is played by the people of this country. But it is up to us now – in the traditional non-threatening, genial and self-deprecating way of the British – to let that lion roar.”